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.

Forte works out, waits for Belmont Stakes clearance

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NEW YORK — Forte, the early Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched on the day of the race, worked out in preparation for a possible start in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

Under regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr., Forte worked five-eighths of a mile for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. It was the colt’s second workout since being scratched from the Derby on May 6.

“It seems like he’s maintained his fitness level,” Pletcher said. “It seems like everything is in good order.”

Forte was placed on a mandatory 14-day veterinary list after being scratched from the Derby because of a bruised right front foot. In order to be removed from the list, the colt had to work in front of a state veterinarian and give a blood sample afterward, the results of which take five days.

“There’s protocols in place and we had to adhere to those and we’re happy that everything went smoothly,” Pletcher said. “We felt confident the horse was in good order or we wouldn’t have been out there twice in the last six days, but you still want to make sure everything went smoothly and we’re happy everything did go well.”

Pletcher said Kingsbarns, who finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby, will miss the Belmont. The colt is showing signs of colic, although he is fine, the trainer said.

Another Pletcher-trained horse, Prove Worthy, is under consideration for the Belmont. He also has Tapit Trice, who finished seventh in the Derby, being pointed toward the Belmont.

Judge grants Churchill Downs’ request for summary judgment to dismiss Bob Baffert’s lawsuit

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal judge has granted Churchill Downs’ motion for summary judgment that dismisses Bob Baffert’s claim the track breached due process by suspending the Hall of Fame trainer for two years.

Churchill Downs Inc. suspended Baffert in June 2021 after his now-deceased colt, Medina Spirit, failed a postrace drug test after crossing the finish line first in the 147th Kentucky Derby. The trainer’s request to lift the discipline was denied in February, keeping him out of the Derby for a second consecutive May.

U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings ruled in a 12-page opinion issued Wednesday that Churchill Downs’ suspension of Baffert did not devalue his Kentucky trainer’s license. It cited his purse winnings exceeding $1 million at Keeneland in Lexington and stated that his argument “amounts to a false analogy that distorts caselaw.”

Jennings denied CDI’s motion to stay discovery as moot.

The decision comes less than a week after Baffert-trained colt National Treasure won the Preakness in his first Triple Crown race in two years. His record eighth win in the second jewel of the Triple Crown came hours after another of his horses, Havnameltdown, was euthanized following an injury at Pimlico.

Churchill Downs said in a statement that it was pleased with the court’s favorable ruling as in Baffert’s other cases.

It added, “While he may choose to file baseless appeals, this completes the seemingly endless, arduous and unnecessary litigation proceedings instigated by Mr. Baffert.”

Baffert’s suspension is scheduled to end on June 2, but the track’s release noted its right to extend it “and will communicate our decision” at its conclusion.