Haskell Stakes: Brad Cox has high hopes for Mandaloun

Peter Ackerman via Imagn Content Services, LLC

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.