Brad Cox didn’t budge, even as everything around him was being thrown for a loop.
After Mandaloun crossed the wire second in the 147th Kentucky Derby (G1) on May 1, his Eclipse Award-winning champion trainer thought it was best to give the Juddmonte homebred time to recover off that brave effort rather than push the bay colt into the May 15 Preakness Stakes (G1). Even when news broke six days later that the son of Into Mischief may yet become the Derby winner should first-place finisher Medina Spirit be disqualified for a medication positive, Cox said he wasn’t tempted to call an audible with regards to a trip to Baltimore.
“We just thought (the time off) was the best thing for him long term and trying to continue to develop, not only for the rest of the year, but as a 4-year-old as well,” Cox said. “Obviously with the news breaking five to six days after the Kentucky Derby or whenever it was….it didn’t sway our decision making at all. We just wanted to try to continue to develop this horse.”
The specter of the Kentucky Derby outcome may still be hanging over the industry, but Mandaloun is moving on to his next competitive task. Just over a week after stablemate Essential Quality provided Cox his first official classic triumph with his victory in the June 5 Belmont Stakes (G1), Mandaloun will aim to get back into the winner’s circle when he heads up the field for the $150,000 TVG.com Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park on June 13.
Should all go as hoped for his team this weekend, the 1 1/16-miles Pegasus Stakes will serve as a stepping stone toward Mandaloun’s attempt to notch a top-level win on his own merit as his main target is a start in the $1 million TVG Haskell Stakes (G1) at Monmouth on July 17.
“I want him to get some experience at Monmouth and I’m looking to use the race as a fitness tool, as a prep from the Haskell,” said Cox, who plans to fly in from Kentucky on Sunday morning to watch the race in person. “I didn’t want to go 11 weeks without a race. This was the race we thought made the most sense on the calendar.”
Muddled in the controversy over the Kentucky Derby and its potential outcome is the big step forward Mandaloun took that day beneath the Twin Spires. His half-length defeat (for now) proved his strong workouts leading up to the 10-furlong classic were legitimate touts of his form and that he had indeed been able to rebound off a head-scratching, sixth-place run in the March 20 Louisiana Derby (G2).
“He ran a really strong race in the Kentucky Derby that day, being up close to a nice pace and he stayed on,” Cox said. “And you know, you really never know if the horse is going to come back to you running but I definitely liked the idea of six weeks (between races) as opposed to four weeks.”
Mandaloun captured the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds on Feb. 13 and has three wins overall from six starts with $961,252 in earnings.
He won’t have much company in the starting gate on Sunday as the 40th edition of the Pegasus Stakes finds just four horses challenging Mandaloun, including Grade 2 Remsen winner Brooklyn Strong and Grade 3 Gotham Stakes winner Weyburn. Dr Jack and Lugamo round out the field.
“For me, 3-year-olds on the dirt going two turns, that’s what it is all about,” Cox said. “This is the division I like.”