Lecomte, Risen Star, Louisiana Derby, Kentucky Derby, Haskell: Both Mandaloun and Midnight Bourbon enter the starting gate rivals for the sixth time in the 76th edition of the $150,000 Louisiana Stakes (G3) this Saturday at the Fairgrounds in New Orleans, Louisiana . Mandaloun has bragging rights, having won or finished before Midnight Bourbon in three of five matchups so far.
The duo will cover 1 1/16 miles on Saturday, the same distance they covered in Lecomte 2021 when they first faced each other. Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Midnight Bourbon came fresh from a three-month hiatus and has wired the field. Now it’s Mandaloun, the favorite of the even-money morning line, to come in fresh. His last start was on July 17 in the Haskell (G1) when he dueled through the final furlong and finished a nose ahead of Hot Rod Charlie, but an upcoming DQ gave Juddmontes Mandaloun his fifth career win from eight starts.
“He needed a break. He made that decision easy,” said coach Brad Cox. “We stopped at his place and gave him time. In order for horses to progress, whether they are from two to three or three to four years old, they need a break. He got his break and came back. Look, I’m not going to tell you that he’s working better than ever because he’s always a very, very good workhorse. I think anyone who watched him practice for the Kentucky Derby could believe the way he ran (runner-up 26-1), the way he trained. He’s definitely working as well as he did leading up to the Derby or Haskell, so we’re in a good position with him. I think this is a race that makes a lot of sense going back to racing and seeing how it goes.”
Mandaloun will pull away from post two with his only rider Florent Geroux aboard. He will recognize the horse from the outside, but not the rider.
On the track that started it all, Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Midnight Bourbon has the neighbor in third place. Midnight Bourbon was last seen setting the pace in the Clark (G1) in November at Churchill Downs with jockey Joel Rosario on board. Midnight Bourbon was doing well only to be passed on the track by posh Maxfield and Happy Saver. He gets a slight reduction in distance to 1 1/16 miles for the Louisiana. As in Clark, Rosario gets the call, his second on Midnight Bourbon, which will break off the three post (6-5 ML).
This time, Midnight Bourbon has a new trick up its sleeve: blinkers.
“As good as he was, I think there’s more to come,” said coach Steve Asmussen. “It doesn’t look like he’s going to finish it (his races). He’s not exhausted when he comes back. I think we can get a little bit more out of him. There is a possibility that it will make him more aggressive and that he is in too much of a hurry. The Louisiana Stakes is the perfect time to try it.”
With a field of horses that have shown strong early pace, they will have their hands full all the time. Starting on the rail: Chess Chief, Sprawl, Pirate’s Punch, Warrant and Spa City form the field of seven.
Claiborne Farms’ Adele B. Dilschneider and Sprawl finished sixth in October’s Lukas Classic (G3) at Churchill Downs, the race before that was his first win on the graded stakes and led most of the way in the West Virginia Governor (G3 ) at Mountaineer. Coach Tom Drury Jr. took him to Fair Grounds to specifically prepare him for Louisiana.
“That little horse has fought some wars for us,” said Drury. “We had this race in mind and worked backwards from there. After the Lukas Classic we sent him to Robby Harris in Florida and gave him a little break. Since then it’s been running like clockwork. He got out of the van (at the fairgrounds) and did well and has been fine ever since, but I’ll be honest I didn’t expect the race to be as tough as it is. Apart from that, Sprawl is an experienced older horse and we will do our best and see what happens.”
By City Zip, its pacemaker presence adds to the uncertainty of how the race will unfold. Fair Grounds lead driver Colby Hernandez is on board from post four (10-1 ML).
“We’re just going to let Colby race,” said Drury. “I do think he wants to be up front, but I’d like to see him in some sort of stalking position. I don’t want to go duck hunting there and try to take the lead at all costs.”
About half of Chess Chief’s earnings come from his five wins, all of which came on fair grounds. Possibly a horse for the course, but the estate of James J. Coleman Jr.’s 6-year-old has placed ambitiously throughout his career, losing four times to Maxfield, Knicks Go and other high-profile rivals. He pulls off an exciting win at the $100,000 Tenacious on Road to the Derby Kickoff Day, narrowly defeating Happy American. He is set to break the rail with Reylu Gutierrez on board (12-1 ML), although coach Dallas Stewart has indicated a run in the following Saturday’s Pegasus World Cup is also on the table.
Gulliver Racing’s Craig W. Dragner and Pirate’s Punch, who finished third from bottom at the Tenacious, has not won any of his six races since back-to-back wins in 2020. Corey Lanerie breaks from post five with odds of 20-1 in the morning and returns after putting him last at the top. Trained by Grant Forster, the 6-year-old gelding will have the opportunity to pass or harass his half-brother, Midnight Bourbon.
That’s right, dam Catch the Moon and breeder Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings can be proud of.
The remainder of the field with post position, jockey/trainer and morning line odds are as follows: Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ Warrant (post six, Brian Hernandez Jr/Brad Cox, 12-1 ML), Oklahoma Derby 2021 ( G3) winner makes his 4-year-old debut; and Maggi Moss’ Spa City (after seven James Graham/Tim Amoss, 20-1 ML), who was claimed four starts back for $40,000.
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