MANDALOUN was carried wide turning for home, but asserted his authority in deep stretch and got the better of WEYBURN to win Sunday's $150K Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park.
Ridden by Florent Geroux, trained by Brad Cox, and owned by Juddmonte Farms, the son of INTO MISCHIEF didn't have the perfect trip.
MANDALOUN had to steady after the start, finding himself at the rear of the field alongside BROOKLYN STRONG, while LUGAMO and WEYBURN dictated the early tempo of 24.67 and 48.61 for opening fractions.
"We didn't expect that (the troubled start)," said trainer Brad Cox. "We thought he might be on the lead or tracking a couple. We found ourselves last going into the first turn. But overall it was a big effort. I think he closed into a soft pace.
"He probably had to start his run a touch early given the fact that he was last. He ran a big race. Florent made the comment that he may have been looking around late. But he made the lead by himself. Overall it was a good effort for him to ship over here."
Florent Geroux got him to relax through the backstretch, racing in the clear and out of trouble. But with three furlongs to go, MANDALOUN is asked for more run and proceeds to gobble up ground, moving up menacingly, three-wide, with WEYBURN still to catch.
Down the lane, WEYBURN refused to give way so easily and bravely matched strides. But MANDALOUN's momentum proved greater; he repelled WEYBURN's late efforts and crossed the wire first. WEYBURN was a game second. DR JACK ran bravely along the rail to finish a close third.
The final time for the one mile and one-sixteenth was 1:44.63.
"I didn't want to rush him," jockey Florent Geroux said. "He was nice and relaxed during the race. It was nice to see that he was able to settle down on his own and everything worked out great. The important thing was not to rush him too hard.
"I had a lot of horse. He was passing horses one by one. At the end when he made the lead maybe he was looking around a little. It was a new thing for him not having the whip for encouragement. I saw the other horse coming inside of us. But he was still running pretty good at the end."
MANDALOUN paid $2.60 to win, $2.10 to place, and $2.10 to show. He is by INTO MISCHIEF out of BROOCH by EMPIRE MAKER. This could potentially be his second win in a row if the Kentucky Derby is awarded to him via DQ. He pushed his earnings just over the $1-million mark, and came a unit shy of a new top speed figure.
How about the effort from third-place finisher, DR JACK? Making just his third career start for trainer Todd Pletcher, and only second time around two turns, he finished two and a half lengths from the potential Kentucky Derby winner! Certainly one to look out for in the nearby future.
Source: Equibase, Monmouth Park Press Office/ Tom Luicci, Horse Racing Nation