June 19, 2024

Mandaloun, Midnight Bourbon renew rivalry in Louisiana

Mandaloun wins the Risen Star Stakes (Hodges Photography)

Louisiana S. (G3) — Race 13 (6:49 p.m. ET)

Saturday’s $150,000 Louisiana S. (G3) at Fair Grounds will mark the sixth meeting between Mandaloun and Midnight Bourbon, but it also serves as a dress rehearsal for a potential seventh meeting in the $20 million Saudi Cup (G1) on Feb. 26.

The pair first met on this weekend a year ago, in the Lecomte (G3), with Midnight Bourbon pulling off the minor upset of odds-on Mandaloun. With blinkers added, Mandaloun turned the tables in the Risen Star (G2), but the Juddmonte colt turned in an inexplicably poor effort in the Louisiana Derby (G2) while Midnight Bourbon finished second to Hot Rod Charlie.

Mandaloun crossed the wire second in the Kentucky Derby (G1), with Midnight Bourbon a rallying sixth after a troubled start. The latest meeting between the pair, in the July 17 Haskell (G1), resulted in Mandaloun’s elevation to first after Hot Rod Charlie was disqualified for impeding Midnight Bourbon in the stretch. Mandaloun has not raced since the Haskell.

“He needed time off,” trainer Brad Cox said. “He made that decision easy. We stopped on him and gave him time. For horses to progress, whether it be from two to three or three to four, they need a break.

“He’s definitely working as well as he was leading up to the Derby, or the Haskell, so we’re in a good spot with him. I think this is a race that makes a lot of sense as far as getting back racing and seeing how it goes.”

Midnight Bourbon kept going through the remainder of 2021. Second by a neck to Essential Quality in the Travers (G1), the Tiznow colt occupied the same slot in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1), and then ran third to the older Maxfield in the Clark (G1).

Although honest as the day is long, Midnight Bourbon has been win shy. He owns two victories from 13 starts, but has run second or third nine times. He’ll add blinkers for the 1 1/16-mile Louisiana.

Also among the field of seven is Chess Chief, who is 5-for-10 at Fair Grounds and 0-for-20 elsewhere. Local highlights include photo-finish scores in the New Orleans Classic (G2) last March and in the Tenacious S. on Dec. 26.

Cox also sends out the ultra-consistent Warrant, who registered wins last season in the Oklahoma Derby (G3) and Texas Derby. The son of Constitution has never finished worse than third in seven starts. Also returning from a break is Sprawl, whose signature win last season occurred in the West Virginia Governor’s (G3).