Mandaloun, Midnight Bourbon Rivalry Continues in Louisiana Stakes – Horse Racing News

Lecomte, Risen Star, Louisiana Derby, Kentucky Derby, Haskell: This Saturday marks the 76th running of the $150,000 Louisiana Stakes (G3) at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, La., the sixth time both Mandaloun and Midnight Bourbon have won the enter starting gate as rivals. Mandaloun has the right to brag, win or finish for Midnight Bourbon in three of the five match-ups to date.

The duo will cover 1 1/16 miles on Saturday, the same distance they covered in the 2021 Lecomte when they first faced each other. Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Midnight Bourbon was fresh from a three-month hiatus and cabled the field. Now it’s the turn of even-money morning line favorite Mandaloun to come in fresh. His last start was on July 17 at the Haskell (G1) when he dueled through the last furlong and fell short of Hot Rod Charlie, but an approaching DQ gave Juddmonte’s Mandaloun its fifth win in his career of eight starts.

“He needed free time. He made that decision easy,” said trainer Brad Cox. “We stopped by him and gave him time. For horses to progress, whether it’s (age) two to three or three to four, they have a needed a break He got his break and came back Listen I’m not going to tell you he’s working better than ever because he’s always been a really, really good workhorse to start with I think anyone who takes him to the Saw Kentucky Derby train, the way he ran (second on 26-1), the way he trained, could believe He’s definitely doing just as well as leading up to the Derby, or the Haskell, so we’re good with him. I think this is a race that makes a lot of sense to race again and see how it goes.”

Mandaloun breaks from post two with his lone rider Florent Geroux on board. He will recognize the horse by its exterior, but not the rider.

On the track where it all started, Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Midnight Bourbon has the neighboring spot in post three. Midnight Bourbon, last seen at Clark (G1) in Churchill Downs in November with jockey Joel Rosario on board, ran well but was overtaken on the stretch by the stylish Maxfield and Happy Saver. He gets a small reduction in distance to 1 1/16 miles for the Louisiana. As in the Clark, Rosario gets the call, his second on Midnight Bourbon who will break three (6-5 ML) from the post.

This time, Midnight Bourbon has a new trick up its sleeve: blinkers.

“As good as he’s been, I think there’s more,” said trainer Steve Asmussen. “It doesn’t look like he’s going to finish it (his races). He won’t be exhausted when he comes back. I think we can get a little more out of him. There is a possibility that this will make him more aggressive and in too much of a hurry. The Louisiana Stakes is the perfect time to try it.”

With a field full of horses that have shown a strong early pace, they will have their hands full. Starting on the rails: Chess Chief, Sprawl, Pirate’s Punch, Warrant and Spa City make up the field of seven.

Adele B Dilschneider and Claiborne Farms’ Sprawl finished sixth last in October’s Lukas Classic (G3) at Churchill Downs, the race before which was his first graded stakes win, leading most of the way in the West Virginia Governor (G3) at Mountaineer. Trainer Tom Drury Jr. took him to Fair Grounds to get him ready especially for Louisiana.

“That little horse has fought a few wars for us,” Drury said. “We had this race in mind and we worked from it. After the Lukas Classic we sent him to Robby Harris in Florida and gave him some rest. It’s been like clockwork ever since. He walked out of the van (at Fair Grounds) and did well and has been doing well ever since, but I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect the race to be this tough. That said, Sprawl is a seasoned older horse and we’re going to do our best and see what happens.”

Through City Zip, his pace-setting presence adds uncertainty to how the race will unfold. Fair Grounds leader Colby Hernandez is on board from post four (10-1 ML).

“We’ll just let Colby run his race,” said Drury. “I think he wants to come forward, but I would like to see him in a stalking-type position. I don’t want to leave ducks there to take the lead at all costs.”

About half of Chess Chief’s profits come from his five wins, each of which took place at Fair Grounds. Possibly a horse for the race, but James J Coleman Jr’s 6-year-old’s estate has been ambitiously placed throughout his career, losing four times to Maxfield, Knicks Go and other stylish rivals. He takes a thrilling win in the $100,000 Tenacious on “Road to the Derby Kickoff Day,” beating Happy American with a small nose. He is slated to break off the rails with Reylu Gutierrez on board (12-1 ML), although coach Dallas Stewart has indicated a point in next Saturday’s Pegasus World Cup is also on the table.

Craig W. Dragner and Gulliver Racing’s Pirate’s Punch, finishing third last in the Tenacious, has not won any of his six races since his consecutive 2020 ranking victories. Corey Lanerie breaks from post five at morning line odds of 20-1 and returns back after bringing him to the lead last. The Grant Forster-trained 6-year-old gelding has options to pass or squeeze his half-brother Midnight Bourbon.

Indeed, dam Catch the Moon and breeder Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings can be proud.

The rest of the field with post position, jockey/trainer and morning line odds is as follows: Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ Warrant (post six, Brian Hernandez Jr/Brad Cox, 12-1 ML), the 2021 Oklahoma Derby (G3) winner makes his 4-year debut; and Maggi Moss’ Spa City (after seven James Graham/Tim Amoss, 20-1 ML), which was claimed for $40,000 four starts back.

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