December 11, 2023

Mandaloun, Olympiad headline Stephen Foster; speedy mares battle in Fleur de Lis

Mandaloun with Florent Geroux aboard outruns Midnight Bourbon to win the Louisiana Stakes (Photo by Hodges Photography / Lou Hodges, Jr.)

A little more than four months after a desultory performance in the $20 million Saudi Cup (G1), Mandaloun commences his march to the Breeders’ Cup in the $750,000 Stephen Foster S. (G2) at Churchill Downs on Saturday.

Contested over 1 1/8 miles, the Stephen Foster is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge series event. The winner will be given an automatic entry into the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Keeneland in November.

Mandaloun’s season was over the by the time the 2021 Breeders’ Cup rolled around. Last season the Juddmonte homebred passed the wire first in the Risen Star (G2) and Pegasus S., and was also awarded, via disqualification, victories in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Haskell (G1).

An odds-on winner over the late Midnight Bourbon in the Jan 22 Louisiana (G3) at Fair Grounds in his comeback, Mandaloun failed to fire in the Saudi Cup, finishing 18 lengths behind in ninth.

“He’s been doing great training over this track so it makes sense to target a race like the Foster that is at home,” trainer Brad Cox said.

The Bill Mott-trained Olympiad has a recency edge, having won all four starts this season. They include triumphs in the Mineshaft (G3), New Orleans Classic (G2) in track record time, and the Alysheba (G2), the latter over the Churchill strip on Kentucky Oaks Day.

Americanrevolution, who captured the Cigar Mile (G1) in December, looks to bounce back off a fourth-place finish to stablemate Dynamic One in the June 4 Blame S. in his season debut. Blame runner-up Proxy has knocked heads with Mandaloun and Olympiad multiple times in the past, but is still seeking his first career stakes win.

Last Samurai enters off a 12-1 upset victory in the Oaklawn H. (G2) on April 23, while Caddo River returns to the stakes ranks after three consecutive allowance wins. The field is completed by Grade 3 veteran Title Ready, who ran one of his better races of late when four lengths third in the Alysheba.

Earlier in the card, a potential speed showdown looms in the $350,000 Fleur de Lis S. (G2) for fillies and mares. Multiple Grade 1 veteran Shedaresthedevil, who has won five of six starts under the Twin Spires, might duke it out early with Super Quick, recent 14-length winner of the Allaire duPont Distaff (G3) at Pimlico.

Hoping to pick up the pieces is Pauline’s Pearl, who ran down Shedaresthedevil in the May 6 La Troienne (G1) prior to a puzzling fourth in last month’s Shawnee S. Completing the small field are the one-two finishers from the Shawnee, She’s All Wolfe and Ava’s Grace.

The Fleur de Lis will be also be run over nine furlongs.