In this edition of our Derby Profile reporting, we look at the Brad Cox-trainee MANDALOUN, who is currently third place on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard with 52 points. MANDALOUN is just eight points shy of the top spot shared by GREATEST HONOUR and LIFE IS GOOD with 60 points apiece.
MANDALOUN shot to the top of the ranking with his latest victory in the Risen Star Stakes (G2), where he earned 50 qualifying points. Judging by the performance, we want to know does he have the wherewithal to win the Kentucky Derby? Well, let's consider a few points.
First of all, he is likely to run in the Derby with blinkers after it helped him secure his Risen Star win. He earned his highest speed figure from that effort and we can at least expect him to use it in his next prep race.
It is fascinating what blinkers can do for a horse. Some noteworthy attitudes toward this equipment were revealed in a DRF article. Trainer Bob Baffert discussed its use for keeping a horse from panicking. Trainer Steve Asmussen said it's for when you think a horse can do more. Allen Jerkins recalled how his exercise rider, every time a horse wouldn't win, would say 'Let's put blinkers on him!' — and that a lot of the time, it was like grabbing straws. The philosophies vary, but we can agree how blinkers can achieve signficant change. If you recall a recent article we wrote, a horse in Australia at 144-1 won a Group 1 race, the jockey credited the addition of blinkers!
Well, needless to say, Brad Cox knows what he's doing with blinkering Mandaloun. His horse may be even better on his second and third time using it.
There's one scenario where blinkers in the Derby may backfire. It's when there's heavy rain leading into the Derby, and the track comes up muddy. We've seen talented, blinkered horses fail to fire, particularly the come-from-behinders. Well, actually, it was the mud kicked to their faces by the horses in front of them — rendering them practically blind for the race, with inches of slop to clean off afterward. They just lose interest in the race and run slower. But such a problem isn't worrisome unless it gets really wet, such as JUSTIFY's Kentucky Derby in 2018. And good piloting by the jockey produces clean trips which overcome such conditions.
Now what about the most obvious and important question: can MANDALOUN handle the mile and one-quarter distance?
Let us look at his pedigree. His sire is INTO MISCHIEF, who never raced beyond one mile and one-sixteenth. INTO MISCHIEF actually ran his best speed figure going seven furlongs. MANDALOUN will need to stretch his speed for the Kentucky Derby. If we look at his damside, we see Belmont Stakes winner EMPIRE MAKER up the line, which could positively influence his endurance.
Visually? MANDALOUN looks like he'll handle the longer distance. He finished strong in the Risen Star Stakes, which was a one mile and one-eighth route. He was widening from MIDNIGHT BOURBON, who finished third.
MANDALOUN ran his last furlong in 12.89 seconds. Compare that with other Derby competitors over that same distance: RISK TAKING's 13.20 seconds when winning the Withers Stakes; ROMBAUR's 13.44 seconds when winning the El Camino Real Stakes.
MANDALOUN was not tired nor "breathing fire" nearing the wire.
Perhaps the bigger question for MANDALOUN is: how does he fare against the rest of the Kentucky Derby field?
We still want to see him assert his level of class. It's a fact he has not competed against our top ranked East and West horses yet. He raced against PROXY and MIDNIGHT BOURBON twice already; the three of them completed the trifecta in both matchups. Guess what? They are set to square off for the third time in the Louisiana Derby (G2).
Here's a list of the probables for the Louisiana Derby (G2) scheduled for March 20th, 2021 at the Fair Grounds.
HOT ROD CHARLIE
MANDALOUN will be testing his routing mettle again, as they'll run one mile and three-sixteenths over the dirt.
Note: PROXY may have a stronger say in deep stretch this time around. He is by TAPIT and was gaining ground on MANDALOUN in the final strides of the Risen Star. The extra one-sixteenth of a mile could be better received by long-striding PROXY than MANDALOUN from the pedigree standpoint. Note once more, PROXY has been training with blinkers and may use it for the first time! Will blinkers work its magic for him too? The plot thickens. Stay tuned because the Louisiana Derby (G2) is just two weeks away, and we'll revisit the race in question as it comes closer.