Haskell Stakes: Brad Cox has high hopes for Mandaloun

Peter Ackerman via Imagn Content Services, LLC
0 Comments

It’s probably going to be a while before horse racing officials in Kentucky decide whether to disqualify Derby winner Medina Spirit for testing positive for the presence of an anti-inflammatory steroid after the race.

There will be hearings, testimony and probably appeals before the state commission decides what to do about the Bob Baffert-trained colt.

For now, trainer Brad Cox waits to hear whether Mandaloun, the runner-up in the opening jewel of the Triple Crown, will be declared the winner.

Mandaloun may win his first Grade 1 stakes in the meantime. The 3-year-old son of Into Mischief could enter those ranks Saturday when he takes on six rivals in the $1 million Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park.

The 1 1/8-mile race features the runners-up of all three Triple Crown events. Hot Rod Charlie, second in the Belmont, and Midnight Bourbon, runner-up in the Preakness, are entered in the track’s signature race.

Cox is loaded with top 3-year-olds this year. He also trains Essential Quality, who finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby but rebounded to win the Belmont last month.

Essential Quality is slated to run in the Jim Dandy at Saratoga on July 31.

Cox has high hopes for Mandaloun, the Juddmonte Farms-owned-and-bred colt who overcame a slow start to win the Pegasus at Monmouth on June 13.

“For him to accomplish what he has to date is amazing,” Cox said earlier this week of Mandaloun, who has won four of seven career starts and again will be ridden by Florent Geroux. “But there’s definitely more hurdles to jump and we definitely think he’s capable of doing it.”

Winning a Grade 1 would allow the colt to stand stud at Juddmonte, Cox said.

“That’s the goal,” Cox said. “Honestly, once they win that Grade 1, it does take the pressure off a little bit in regards to what you do moving forward. He’s a good horse. He’s in form. He’s training well. This is where we belong.”

Mandaloun has been made the 2-1 second choice after morning-line favorite Hot Rod Charlie at 6-5.

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher’s lightly raced Following Sea drew the inside No. 1 post position and was made the 3-1 third choice for jockey Joel Rosario.

Hot Rod Charlie, who won the Louisiana Derby and finished third in the Kentucky Derby, has not raced since finishing 1 1/4 lengths behind Essential Quality in the Belmont. Flavien Prat is listed to ride the colt, who drew the No. 4 post position.

Trainer Doug O’Neill has decided to gamble and take the blinkers off Hot Rod Charlie on Saturday.

“We’ve been breezing him without blinkers and Flavien is real excited about what we could see without them,” O’Neill said.

Trainer Steve Asmussen’s Midnight Bourbon will be making his first start since finishing behind Rombauer in the Preakness on May 15. The colt will break from post No. 6 for jockey Paco Lopez.

Also entered were longshots Antigravity, Pickin’ Time and Basso.

NBC Sports plans to televise the race. Post time is scheduled for 5:47 p.m. EDT.

Pegasus races planned for Gulfstream and Santa Anita in 2024

Horse racing on Opening day of the winter-spring meet at Santa Anita Park.
Getty Images
0 Comments

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – After seven Pegasus World Cup events, it’s evidently time for change.

1/ST Racing, which has hosted the entirety of the Pegasus series to this point at Gulfstream Park, is planning for two Pegasus days in 2024 – one at Gulfstream and the other at Santa Anita. Details aren’t finalized and it’s unclear how it would fit in the racing calendar, but 1/ST is planning for both dirt and turf Pegasus races as part of the Santa Anita program.

Gulfstream played host to the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on the dirt Saturday, along with the $1 million Pegasus Turf and the $500,000 Pegasus Filly and Mare Turf.

“I’d really love to see that we bring it to the West Coast,” 1/ST President and CEO Belinda Stronach said. “That will probably happen in 2024. What we did this year for 2023 was said, `OK, we have a number of great race days, let’s coordinate those better and call it the 1/ST Racing Tour and recognize great achievements within our own footprint.”

Saturday marked the first stop on that new 1/ST Racing Tour. Along with some of the biggest race days at 1/ST tracks – like Florida Derby day at Gulfstream on April 1, Santa Anita Derby day on April 8 and the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 20 – there are a pair of days where the tour will be running simultaneously.

This coming Saturday, Gulfstream will play host to the Holy Bull while Santa Anita has the Robert B. Lewis – both of them Kentucky Derby prep races.

And on March 4, Gulfstream has the Fountain of Youth, another major Derby prep, while San Anita has the Big Cap. Plans call for coordinated post times at those two tracks on those days to provide the best racing action every 20 minutes, as well as some unique betting options.

“We can never rest on our laurels,” Stronach said. “We have to keep moving forward. We have a great team that’s really committed.”

The main Pegasus race is one of the biggest-paying races in North America. Art Collector claimed about $1.8 million from a $3 million purse with his win on Saturday. In 2022, only the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic and $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf featured bigger prizes among U.S. races, and the $3 million Pegasus purse is equal to the one offered last year at the Kentucky Derby.

Regardless of what happens with the Santa Anita plan for future Pegasus events, Stronach insisted Gulfstream will continue having Pegasus days. There has even been talk about Gulfstream playing host to Breeders’ Cup races again, something that hasn’t happened since 1999.

“This is staying here in Miami,” Stronach said. “Pegasus has a home here in Miami. We can’t move Pegasus from Miami. We have great partners here and it’s more than just a day now. We have deep roots here in Miami.”

Arabian Knight earns Baffert record 6th win in Southwest

Betway Challow Hurdle Day - Newbury Racecourse
Getty Images
0 Comments

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Arabian Knight won the $750,000 Southwest Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths at Oaklawn, giving Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his record sixth victory in the race.

The colt came into the Kentucky Derby prep as one of the most highly touted 3-year-olds in the country. Arabian Knight, who was purchased for $2.3 million as a 2-year-old, was making his second career start and first on a sloppy track in front of 27,000 fans in Arkansas.

“These good horses are hard to come by,” said Baffert, who was on hand in Hot Springs. “We’ve had a lot of luck here at Oaklawn, so it was nice to have a horse like this.”

However, Arabian Knight was ineligible to earn the Kentucky Derby qualifying points awarded to the winner because Baffert has been suspended for two years by Churchill Downs Inc. The penalty, which ends shortly after this year’s Derby on May 6, stems from Medina Spirit’s medication violation after the colt won the 2021 Derby and was later disqualified. Baffert is challenging the ban in court.

Ridden by John Velazquez, Arabian Knight ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:43.50 and paid $2.80 to win. He is 2-0 and has career earnings of $544,275.

“He ran 1:43 and change, that’s racehorse time and he did it without taking a deep breath,” Baffert said. “This was a big effort.”

Red Route One closed from last to finish second, and Frosted Departure was third. Sun Thunder was fourth, followed by Jace’s Road, Corona Bolt, El Tomate and Western Ghent.

At Gulfstream in Florida, Baffert’s entry Defunded finished second in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup, beaten by 4 1/2 lengths by Art Collector on Saturday.