November 30, 2021

Mandaloun meets four rivals in Pegasus at Monmouth

Mandaloun
Mandaloun wins the Risen Star Stakes (Hodges Photography)

Freshened after his near-miss to Medina Spirit in the Kentucky Derby (G1), Mandaloun returns to action in Sunday’s $150,000 Pegasus S. at Monmouth Park. The Brad Cox trainee will meet just four opponents in the local prep for the July 17 Haskell S. (G1).

Mandaloun’s presence on the Jersey Shore takes on added interest in light of Medina Spirit’s testing positive post-Derby. If the first-past-the-post is disqualified, Mandaloun would be awarded the Kentucky Derby victory. And Cox would score another classic win right on the heels of his first, courtesy of champion Essential Quality in last Saturday’s Belmont S. (G1).

Despite the Medina Spirit situation, Mandaloun was never considered for the remaining jewels of the Triple Crown. The game plan for the Juddmonte homebred was to aim for the Haskell, and the 1 1/16-mile Pegasus presented itself as the logical tune-up.

“I want him to get some experience at Monmouth and I’m looking to use the race as a fitness tool, as a prep from the Haskell,” Cox told track publicity. “I didn’t want to go 11 weeks without a race. This was the race we thought made the most sense on the calendar.”

Ironically, the Pegasus took center stage the last time a Derby winner was demoted. In 2019, Maximum Security crossed the wire first at Churchill Down, only to be disqualified for interference on the far turn. Maximum Security made his next start in the Pegasus and suffered his first on-track loss. Bet down to 1-20 favoritism in a six-horse field, he stumbled at the start and wound up second to King for a Day.

Mandaloun has himself been overturned at short odds before. Third as the 4-5 favorite in the Jan. 16 Lecomte S. (G3) at Fair Grounds, he rebounded in the Feb. 13 Risen Star S. (G2) in first-time blinkers. Then Mandaloun disappointed in sixth as the 13-10 choice in the March 20 Louisiana Derby (G2). Back to his best in the Kentucky Derby, he came up a half-length shy at odds of 26.90-1.

Also exiting the Derby is 15th-placer Brooklyn Strong, who was under consideration for the Belmont until failing to sparkle in his training. Last year’s Remsen S. (G2) hero has yet to recover his juvenile form following various winter setbacks. His comeback fifth in the Wood Memorial (G2) suggests he could do so in the right spot for trainer Danny Velazquez.

The Belmont was supposed to be the target for Gotham S. (G3) winner Weyburn. After he missed the Peter Pan (G3) due to a fever, Jimmy Jerkens had to map out a new program. Weyburn hasn’t raced since his fourth in the Wood on April 3.

Incoming Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, who toppled Maximum Security with King for a Day, sends out unbeaten Dr Jack. Like Weyburn a well-bred son of Pioneerof the Nile, Dr Jack broke his maiden sprinting at Gulfstream Park April 2 and stretched out to two turns in a May 14 Pimlico allowance. Now Dr Jack, a half-brother to current Santa Anita H. (G1) winner Idol, takes his first serious class test. He’s the lone entrant racing with Lasix.

Rounding out the quintet is Lugamo from the Antonio Sano barn. Stakes-placed at Laurel last fall for previous connections, he looks to rebound from a remote 12th in the UAE Derby (G2) on Dubai World Cup night.

Mandaloun, the 122-pound co-highweight with Weyburn, will spot six pounds to the others. The Into Mischief blueblood is drawn in post 2 with regular rider Florent Geroux.

“He is usually forwardly placed,” Cox said. “Any time you have speed like he does it’s a big advantage. I’m not saying he is going to be on the lead in this race, but he will be near the lead I’m sure. Any time you have his running style it normally puts you in a good position.

“He’s doing great. Obviously we wouldn’t be coming if he wasn’t doing well. He ships today (Thursday from Churchill Downs) and hopefully he will get settled in quickly and be ready for Sunday.”

Post time for the Pegasus, Sunday’s 10th race, is 4:50 p.m. (ET).