Mandaloun Rallies From Last to Take Pegasus

If you think nailing a Pick 6 is an arduous task, try predicting how racing luck is doled out.

Take, for example, what happened June 13 in the $147,500 Pegasus Stakes for 3-year-olds at Monmouth Park.

Six weeks earlier, in the demolition derby known as the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1), Juddmonte Farm’s Mandaloun faced 18 rivals and had a pretty smooth trip at 26-1 odds in finishing second—for now.

So, fast forward to Sunday, where Mandaloun was a 3-10 favorite over just four rivals in the Pegasus.

Even with such a miniscule field, shortly after the starting gates opened, Mandaloun and jockey Florent Geroux were bumped and squeezed back between the horses inside and outside of them and found themselves a very unexpected last passing the finish line the first time.

“We didn’t expect that,” trainer Brad Cox said. “We thought we’d be tracking the leader or on the lead and we were last. We faced 18 horses and had a great trip in the Derby. Then we come here, face four horses, and we had trouble. That’s why they call it racing luck and that’s why they run the race.”

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By running the race Sunday, it did indeed permits the class and talent in the homebred son of Into Mischief to come to the fore as the heavy favorite overcame the poor start to grab the lead leaving the three-sixteenths pole. From there, with Geroux unable to use his riding crop due to controversial New Jersey regulations, it wasn’t easy, but Mandaloun managed to defeat grade 3 winner Weyburn by a neck in a highly beneficial prep for an expected return engagement July 17 in the $1 million Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) at the Jersey Shore track.

“He ran a big race, though he was kind of looking around late,” Cox stated, “but we’re proud of the effort. He responded when he was asked (by Geroux).”

If all goes well and Mandaloun returns to Monmouth for the Haskell, there could be a different look to his past performances next month.

After all, as the runner-up in the Run for the Roses, he is the 3-year-old who would benefit the most if Medina Spirit is ultimately disqualified after post-race tests revealed a banned substance in the Derby winner’s system.

But regardless of whether he returns as the Kentucky Derby winner or runner-up, Sunday’s performance illustrated that the fluke in Mandaloun’s résumé was not when he was second in the Run for Roses at big odds. Rather, it was that March afternoon when he was a still inexplicable sixth at 6-5 odds in the Louisiana Derby (G2).

With a record of four victories, a second, and a third in seven career starts, he figures to be a very tough customer in the Haskell and a main contender in the battle for the 3-year-old title along with stablemate and division leader Essential Quality, who won the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) and was fourth in the Kentucky Derby for Cox and Godolphin.

A grade 2 winner with earnings of $1,051,252, Mandaloun is the second foal from the group 2-winning Empire Maker mare Brooch  and her second winner. He has 2-year-old and yearling full brothers and a weanling half brother by War Front  .

Weyburn, who won the Gotham Stakes (G3) for trainer Jimmy Jerkens, also ran well as the 9-2 second-choice while making his first start since a fourth in the April 3 Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by Resorts World Casino (G2).

“When he coasted to the lead, we hoped he’d keep going but (Mandaloun) pounced on him,” Jerkens said. “It was good to see him make a second run at him.”

Though Sunday’s top two finishers get a free spot in the Haskell, Jerkens said he’s leaning toward running Weyburn next in the July 31 Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) at Saratoga Race Course.

Harrell Ventures’ Dr Jack, a Pioneer of the Nile colt trained by Todd Pletcher, was 2 1/2 lengths back in third and it was another 15 1/2 lengths back to grade 2 winner Brooklyn Strong.

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