Kentucky Derby Context: Mandaloun

April 17th, 2021 horse racing analyst James Scully attended his first Kentucky Derby in 1981. Along with a brief profile of this year’s contenders, he is providing some historical context.

Mandaloun secured a Kentucky Derby berth over the winter at Fair Grounds, recording a win in the Risen Star S. (G2) and a close third in the Lecomte S. (G3) in his first two stakes appearances.

However, the well-built colt will need to rebound after a non-threatening sixth as the favorite in the Louisiana Derby (G2) on March 20.

Trainer Brad Cox is throwing out the uncharacteristic performance, expecting the son of leading sire Into Mischief to show his true colors on the first Saturday in May. And Mandaloun appears to be training forwardly in preparation, recording a recent five-furlong bullet work (:58 4/5) at Churchill Downs.

“There really wasn’t an excuse in the Louisiana Derby,” Cox told Churchill Downs’ publicity team. “I hate to use the cliché of drawing a line through the race, but that is what we are doing. At the half-mile pole, he really didn’t continue to put himself into the race and was out of gas. We had high hopes, obviously, that he would run better in that race.”

A Juddmonte Farm homebred, Mandaloun received a career-best 100 Brisnet Speed rating when capturing the 1 1/8-mile Risen Star two starts back.

He’s one of only six runners in this year’s Kentucky Derby field to reach the triple-digit threshold.

Juddmonte came close to winning the 2003 Kentucky Derby with Empire Maker, and there’s a connection to Mandaloun, who is out of an Empire Maker mare.

By Unbridled, Empire Maker hailed from the blue hen mare Toussaud. The dark bay established himself as the early Kentucky Derby favorite when romping by 9 3/4 lengths in the Florida Derby (G1) in mid-March, and he posted a comfortable win in the Wood Memorial (G1) four weeks later.

However, an ill-timed foot bruise compromised his Kentucky Derby preparations. Empire Maker was fitted with a special shoe to relieve pressure, and he couldn’t exercise over the track on Wednesday of Derby week, instead walking circles around the barn.

The swelling and soreness eventually subsided, allowing Empire Maker to make the starting gate, but he probably wasn’t 100% finishing second to Funny Cide as the 5-2 favorite.

Empire Maker bounced back five weeks later, denying Funny Cide’s Triple Crown bid in the Belmont S. (G1), and he provided Juddmonte Farm and Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel with their only Triple Crown race victory.

The Kentucky Derby is one of the few prizes in Thoroughbred racing that has eluded Juddmonte. And a win by Mandaloun would be extra special after the passing of its patriarch, Prince Khalid Abdullah, in mid-January.