Focus, that's what trainer Brad Cox is looking for from
MANDALOUN (PP: 11 ML 9/2) in today's Risen Star Stake at Fair Grounds
Racetrack. To help his horse keep his eye on the prize, Cox is putting blinkers
on MANDALOUN saying, "We're trying to keep him a little more focused late,
that's what we are looking for." So far so good as Cox sees evidence the
eye-gear could be working, "I feel like the works with blinkers have shown some
progression, and he can take that next step forward with them and have more
Perhaps it was a lack of concentration or just the wrong
pace setup for MANDALOUN in his last start, a third-place finish as the 4/5
favorite in the Grade III, Lecomte Stakes. Cox points to his horse's
inexperience and the Lecomte pace, "It was probably the slow pace, and, like
all of them, it was his first race around two turns and he got carried wide
around both turns."
Cox and everybody else will be focused on Kentucky Derby
Points. The Risen Star is essentially a win and you are in race for the 2021
Derby. Hitting the wire first comes with a fat check and 50 qualifying points
for the KD. Since moving to the points system in 2013, horses that hit the 50-point
threshold could safely make Churchill reservations.
To get the 50 and run for the roses, MANDALOUN will have to
get past Lecomte champ MIDNIGHT BOURBON (PP: 6 ML 6-1) and runner up PROXY (PP:
2 ML 8-1). Jockey Joseph Talamo took MIDNIGHT BOURBON to the front and never looked
back. It was Talamo's first mount on the son of TIZNOW and he's in the irons
Trainer Steve Asmussen has high hopes for MIDNIGHT BOURBON.
The Lecomte win "showed that he can be the type of big-time horse we think he
can be. We're excited going forward because there are some big races before the
Meanwhile, PROXY's trainer Michael Stidham thinks his horse
might have an advantage in the Risen Star. Today's race is 1 1/8 miles on the
main track, a sixteenth of a mile longer than the Lecomte. "My horse is bred
for as far as they make races. I want to see the added distance help him, which
I think it will" is how Stidham sees it.
SENOR BUSCADOR (PP: 5 ML 6-1) will try to use his worst to
first running style to bust up the Lecomte alumni. He's undefeated in two
starts, including the Springboard Mile Trophy at Remington Park but did not
receive the 10 Derby points for racing on Lasix. Trainer Todd Fincher is not a fan of the
Lasix rule change saying, "I feel this will cause more damage to the horse,"
but adds, "I get it. We're all on the same level playing field. It's their
rules, though, and we're going to play by them."
While Fincher's will play by the Lasix rules, that won't
stop SENOR BUSCADOR from doing "his own thing" when the gates open. "We didn't
teach him to do that," Fincher says of BUSCADOR's way back running style. "We
taught him to come from behind but not walk out of the gate and do a slow roll
before he does anything. It's so nerve-wracking to watch him run. They get so
far back and you think 'What the heck.' But he makes it work."
The question for Fincher and SENOR BUSCADOR is can they make
it work without Lasix and against the best competition they've faced by a wide
margin. Fincher hopes so, "I think the distance is absolutely in his favor. My
wish list would be two preps and hopefully qualify for the Kentucky
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