Since 1982, the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs has been a two-turn test for some of the best in the Thoroughbred racing game. In recent years it has been made a “win and you’re in” event for the Breeders’ Cup Classic which has ramped things up even more. As is the case with any race, it’s always an exam, but for one strapping specimen, it might mean just a little more.
Mandaloun is a horse that certainly passes the Thoroughbred eye test. Sculpted like a Greek god, his frame is more than impressive. And at times his powerful stride has yielded equally impressive results. Running out of the Brad Cox barn, this son of Into Mischief will be looking for career win number 8 in the 12th-lifetime start.
Indeed a great resume, especially when you consider Mandaloun will be lining up for his ninth consecutive graded stakes start. Being a battle-tested warrior and with over $2 million in career earnings, some may wonder how tall can he get. A win in the Foster might just make him a few hands higher for a couple of reasons.
At times, this grandson of Empire Maker has been brilliant. Two wins to open his career were followed by a troubled third in the Lecomte Stakes. After an impressive score in the Risen Star Stakes, Mandaloun finished a fading sixth in the Louisiana Derby. Of course, the question marks began to fly as Cox prepared his runner for the 2021 Kentucky Derby. Answering with a fantastic effort in Derby 147, Mandaloun finished a battling half-length behind Medina Spirit. Later, he was elevated to first after a post-race medication violation disqualified Medina Spirit. Two races later, he again ran terrific in the grade 1 Haskell but was just a head behind Hot Rod Charlie. Again elevated after a DQ of the horse that crossed the finish line first, this Juddmonte Farms-owned colt had another grade 1 win to his credit.
This year began with another smackdown in the grade 3 Louisiana Stakes that saw him best Midnight Bourbon in a stirring stretch duel. Another head-scratcher came next in a ninth-place finish as the favorite in the grade 1 Saudi Cup on February 26. So, can this brilliant-looking runner from the Brad Cox barn cross the finish line first in a larger graded Stakes? Was the trip to Saudi Arabia a little more than he bargained for?
After some much-needed rest and relaxation, Mandaloun is eager to get back in the starting gates. Working wonderfully of late, he appears ready to knock heads with the likes of heavyweight Stakes winners Olympiad, Last Samurai, and Americanrevolution. Full of potential, the Foster will give him another opportunity to cross the finish line first in top company.
“Mandaloun is doing great right now”, says the hard-working Cox. “We are really excited about the chance to run in a race like the Foster here at home.”
The Stephen Foster will be run at Churchill Downs on July 2 and is the centerpiece of a blockbuster card that features six Stakes races. First post will be at 12:45 eastern.