Millionaires Mandaloun, Midnight Bourbon Square Off In Louisiana

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Mandaloun | Sarah Andrew

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Juddmonte's 'TDN Rising Star' Mandaloun (Into Mischief) and Winchell Thoroughbreds' hard-knocking Midnight Bourbon (Tiznow) face each other for the fifth time in their career, each using Saturday's GIII Louisiana S. at a possible steppingstone to the $20-million G1 Saudi Cup in Riyadh Feb. 26.

Mandaloun makes his first start since a late-season injury derailed any hopes of making the Breeders' Cup at Del Mar. Winner of half of his six starts at three, the bay was upset by Midnight Bourbon in the GIII Lecomte S. on this program last year before turning the tables in the GII Risen Star S. the following month. A dull sixth behind Hot Rod Charlie (Oxbow) and Midnight Bourbon in the GII Louisiana Derby, the strapping bay ran Medina Spirit (Protonico) to a half-length at odds of 26-1 in the GI Kentucky Derby and may yet be declared that race's official winner. Having passed on the rest of the Triple Crown, Mandaloun was the narrow winner of the June 13 Pegasus S. at Monmouth and was the chief beneficiary when Midnight Bourbon was interfered with in the GI TVG.com Haskell S., crossing the line a nose behind Hot Rod Charlie before being put up.

“Listen, I'm not going to tell you that he's working better than ever because he's always a very, very good work horse to begin with,” said trainer Brad Cox. “I think anybody that watched him train up to the Kentucky Derby could believe the way he ran the way he was training. He's definitely working as well as he was leading up to the Derby, or the Haskell, so we're in a good spot with him. I think this is a race that makes a lot of sense as far as getting back racing and seeing how it goes.”

Midnight Bourbon failed to recover from a slow start in the Run for the Roses, but finished a creditable sixth ahead of a runner-up effort in the GI Preakness S. Nailed by Essential Quality (Tapit) in the final strides of the GI Runhappy Travers S. in August, the bay was second to Hot Rod Charlie in the GI Pennsylvania Derby after some more stretch shenanigans and closed the season with a third as the favorite behind Maxfield (Street Sense) in the GI Clark S. back in Louisville Nov. 26.  Blinkers go on for the first time this weekend.

“As good as he's been, I think there is more there,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “It doesn't look like he's finishing [his races] off. He's not exhausted when he comes back. I think we can get a little more out of him. There is the possibility that it makes him more aggressive and that he gets in too big of a hurry. The Louisiana S. is the perfect time to try it.”

Brad Cox also sends out the progressive Warrant (Constitution), last-start winner of the GIII Oklahoma Derby Sept. 26, while Chess Chief (Into Mischief) will be scratched in favor of a start in next weekend's GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational.

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