Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella looks to have a great chance of saddling his first GI Kentucky Derby starter since the mid-2000s with a major contender in GII San Felipe S. romper Forbidden Kingdom (American Pharoah), and Tuesday, Mandella sat down with the TDN Writers' Room presented by Keeneland to talk about his electric speedster, the impending Hall of Fame induction of former trainee Beholder, his view on the state of California racing after its trials of the past few years and more.
“Truly excited,” Mandella, calling in via Zoom as the Green Group Guest of the Week, said when asked his reaction to Forbidden Kingdom's 5 3/4-length score Saturday. “I was a little concerned when he opened up so fast early, but he's just gifted with such natural speed and he enjoys using it. He came back great and is doing very well. We had big expectations for him and he's never let us down. He's a gorgeous horse, a very smart horse and has a lot of class about him.”
The conversation turned to Flavien Prat, the perennial leading rider in California who has a close relationship with Mandella and announced over the weekend that he will be moving his tack to New York.
“Selfishly. I just hate to see him go,” Mandella said. “He came to me at 18 years old from France and immediately I just saw a star. There was no secret; anybody that would've looked at him close enough would have seen it. He just has everything, all the ingredients it takes to be a great rider. The horsemanship, the athleticism, the intelligence and then the class to go with it. The person he is, the rider he is, it'll be a big loss when he leaves. On a larger scale, California's going to be hurt by it. I think Flavien's attracted a lot of players and fans that watch purely because of him. And I hope that doesn't take too much away from California.”
Elsewhere on the show, which is also sponsored by Coolmore, West Point Thoroughbreds, XBTV, Canterbury Park, the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders' Association and Legacy Bloodstock, the writers reacted to a huge weekend of racing and discussed the controversies surrounding rides by Paco Lopez and Jose Lezcano. Click here to watch the podcast; click here for the audio-only version or find it on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.