The field for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic begins to take shape in early summer after the Triple Crown races conclude. Last weekend an expenses-paid berth to the $6 million Classic was awarded to Mandaloun for winning the $1 million TVG.com Haskell Stakes via disqualification Saturday at Monmouth Park.
A 3-year-old colt by Into Mischief, Mandaloun has enjoyed a terrific sophomore season that includes three stakes wins (with another possible, more on that later) as he’s emerged as one of the best of his division. He also is in a position to collect a $1 million BetMasters Bonanza if he can also win the Runhappy Travers Stakes Aug. 28 at Saratoga and the Longines Classic Nov. 6 at Del Mar.
Frequently, the spring and summer of a horse’s 3-year-old campaign can be a period of significant improvement as they mature mentally and fill out physically. Could that be what we are witnessing with Mandaloun? How far does he need to progress to be a serious threat to win the 2021 Longines Classic?
A homebred of the powerful Juddmonte Farms operation, Mandaloun showed ability from the moment he stepped onto the racetrack as he won both of his races as a 2-year-old, the first at Keeneland in October 2020 and the second at Churchill Downs in November. He was the overwhelming 11-10 favorite in both races and did not disappoint.
Mandaloun made his stakes debut in the Lecomte Stakes Jan. 16 at Fair Grounds for trainer Brad Cox and ran third as the 4-5 favorite, beaten by a length by front-running Midnight Bourbon. He followed with a breakthrough win in the Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford at Fair Grounds, which preceded what has been his only poor effort to date when he subsequently ran sixth in the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby.
Because of that disappointing race in the Louisiana Derby, Mandaloun was overlooked at 26.90-1 odds in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve after being the betting favorite in his first five starts. He ran a monster race in his first try at 1 ¼ miles while finishing second by a half-length to Medina Spirit to earn a then career-top 110 Equibase Speed Figure and 101 Beyer Speed Figure.
Following the runner-up finish in the Kentucky Derby, news came that Medina Spirit had failed a post-race drug test and could be disqualified from the victory, which would mean Mandaloun would become the 2021 Kentucky Derby winner. That would be a heck of an addition to the race résumé.
Mandaloun was given six weeks off after the Kentucky Derby and prepped for the Haskell in the TVG.com Pegasus Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile race at Monmouth Park. He held off Weyburn by a neck to win as the 3-10 favorite but took a slight step back from a speed-figure perspective with a 93 Beyer and 109 Equibase Speed Figure.
Mandaloun regained his top form in the Haskell and, although it was not enough to beat Hot Rod Charlie to the finish line, he delivered yet another elite effort.
Mandaloun surged to a brief lead from the inside before Hot Rod Charlie rallied on the outside, lugging in through the stretch and causing Midnight Bourbon to clip heels and unseat rider Paco Lopez. Hot Rod Charlie then seized command but Mandaloun came back on the inside as that duo battled gamely to the finish line in the Haskell. Hot Rod Charlie finished a nose in front but he was disqualified for interference and placed last, giving Mandaloun the win. Fortunately for everyone involved, both Midnight Bourbon and Lopez escaped significant injury.
Mandaloun earned a new career-best 113 Equibase Speed Figure and 102 Beyer Speed Figure for his effort in the Haskell. He continues to improve and again showed a willingness to fight determinedly in the stretch, although in both the Kentucky Derby and Haskell he was unable to cross the finish line first after a prolonged duel.
While it would be nice to see Mandaloun win one of those stretch battles in a Grade 1 race, he did fight for a win in the Pegasus and appears to be getting better with experience.
One major consideration when evaluating Mandaloun’s Longines Classic chances is the absence of a true standout in the older male division this year. Sure, Maxfield, Mystic Guide (who is scheduled to undergo surgery and may not race again), Knicks Go, Silver State, and Max Player all profile as quality racehorses, but none of them looks like a Ghostzapper, Saint Liam, Gun Runner or even Accelerate at this point and there also is no Triple Crown winner like American Pharoah in the path to the 2021 Breeders’ Cup winner’s circle.
One of the aforementioned older males could separate himself from the pack in the coming months as could one of the 3-year-olds… and that 3-year-old could wind up being Mandaloun.
Like many Juddmonte homebreds – Juddmonte founder Khalid Abdullah died in January 2021 – Mandaloun comes from a carefully cultivated family that features his first three dams (mother, maternal grandmother, maternal great-grandmother) sired by Juddmonte homebreds Empire Maker, Dansili, and Distant View, respectively.
Mandaloun’s dam, Brooch, was a Group 2 winner in Ireland; his grandam, Daring Diva, was a stakes winner in France; and his third dam, Aspiring Diva, was stakes-placed in France. All three became stakes producers. Fourth dam, Queen of Song, by His Majesty, was a multiple graded stakes winner and a stakes producer as well. This is a terrific family.
Mandaloun is from the ninth crop of sire Into Mischief, a Grade 1-winning son of Harlan’s Holiday who topped the general sire list in North America in both 2019 and 2020 and ranks first through July 18 in 2021. Should Mandaloun be elevated to first in the Kentucky Derby, Into Mischief would boast consecutive Derby winners following 2020 Horse of the Year Authentic’s victory a year ago.
Simply put, Mandaloun was bred to excel on the racetrack and has lived up to lofty expectations. From a stamina perspective, his two best races on paper came at 1 1/8 miles in the Haskell and 1 ¼ miles in the Kentucky Derby, so the distance of the Longines Classic should not be a problem for him if he’s good enough come November.