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NEW ORLEANS, LA – Wearing blinkers for the first time proved the difference-maker for Mandaloun, who took off in deep stretch to win Saturday’s $400,000 Risen Star Stakes Presented by Lamarque Ford (G2) at Fair Grounds.
The Juddmonte Farms homebred Mandaloun broke from post 2 under Florent Geroux as the 2/1 favorite and raced three-wide in third heading into the clubhouse turn.
Rightandjust pushed hard from the far outside post and crossed over to lead under the wire for the first time before posting fractions of :23.65, :48.45, and 1:12.74.
After pressing the pace for much of the early going, the 4/1 third choice Midnight Bourbon took first run on Rightandjust and assumed command midway through the far turn, but Mandaloun was hot on his heels.
Ranging up three-wide in the stretch, Mandaloun advanced to the lead just past the 3/16 pole and drew clear from the field late for a 1 1/4-length victory.
The Brad Cox trainee completed the 1 1/8-mile fast dirt route in 1:50.39.
“Blinkers on was a difference-maker today, for sure,” Geroux said. “We knew he needed it racing, but he’s been winning without them. He’s always been a little funny down the lane. He’s never given me his full potential. … We always thought he had the attitude and the pedigree to go further. It’s not like I was saving ground all the way around and he got a little bit short at the end; I was pretty much three-wide all the way around there. I think the longer distance is definitely not going to be a problem for him.”
After tracking from fourth earlier, Proxy got up in the stretch for second under jockey John Velazquez.
“I think if he stayed closer to where I wanted to be on the backstretch, he might have had a better chance to win,” Velazquez said. “He kind of dropped out a little bit on the second turn, but he came running again.
Midnight Bourbon was third, completing the same boxed trifecta from last month’s Lecomte Stakes (G3).
“I was smiling the whole way,” jockey Joe Talamo said. “He still has some upside. Obviously, the winner got to me and went by, but what impressed me the most was he was still fighting the whole way. A lot of horses, when they get passed, they cave in, but he was still fighting. I still believe the further the better with him. You’re never going to get everything your own way, but (Rightandjust) was going pretty hard and that didn’t help us. I would have liked to have sat a little off, but that first 1/8 (of a mile) didn’t help.”
O Besos narrowly took fourth by a head and a nose over Senor Buscador and Rightandjust, respectively.
Santa Cruiser, Sermononthemount, Starrininmydreams, Carillo, and Beep Beep completed the order of finish.
Keepmeinmind was scratched in favor of the Southwest Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park on February 20. Defeater was scratched in favor of an allowance race earlier on the card; he finished second.
The Risen Star is part of the Road to the 2021 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Mandaloun earned 50 points for the win, with Proxy receiving 20 for second, Midnight Bourbon 10 for third, and O Besos 5 for fourth.
Mandaloun’s win was his first at the stakes level and came on the heels of suffering his first defeat in the Lecomte, finishing third in an effort that prompted Cox and Geroux to immediately want to add blinkers. The 3-year-old Into Mischief colt’s record stands at 4-3-0-1 with $351,252 earned and will likely head to the Louisiana Derby (G2) for his next start.
“(Adding blinkers) seems to have done the trick to get him mentally over the top, mentally getting him where he needs to be,” Cox said. “I’m very proud of the colt. He stepped up and ran a big race today. … He’s got enough speed to be close and he stays on. He’s got the physical make-up of a mile and 1/4 horse, so we’re optimistic he’ll get better with more ground.”
Mandaloun returned $6.20 to win, $4 to place, and $3 to show. Proxy brought back $5.20 to place and $3.60 to show, while Midnight Bourbon paid $3.80 to show.
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