From a betting perspective, the Grade 3, $200,000 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds provides a good opportunity. The race includes the presence of Midnight Bourbon, the Steve Asmussen-trained colt who ran second in the Iroquois Stakes (G3) and third in the Champagne Stakes (G1), making him a familiar name to bettors.
Even if Midnight Bourbon is not the favorite, he is probable to attract money as a horse with moderately successful 2-year-old stakes experience. But there are a few other viable entries in this race attempting to make the step forward, such as the two-for-two Mandaloun and maiden winner Beep Beep.
Trained by Brad Cox, Mandaloun broke his maiden at Keeneland in October and took an optional claiming race at Churchill Downs the following month.
In the latter race, Mandaloun traveled as a stalker in fourth before making his move around the turn and churning his way to a 1 1/4-length victory over Twilight Blue in second, with Founder in third and Pico d’Oro in fourth. Mandaloun earned a 93 TimeformUS Speed Figure and 92 BRIS Speed Rating.
Visually, Mandaloun did need to work a bit to defeat those horses. But the small winning margin is fine because he won against a decent group.
Twilight Blue finished a good third in the Sugar Bowl Stakes in his next start with a 102 on TimeformUS, while Founder had defeated the well-regarded Highly Motivated at Saratoga in a maiden race in August. Two starts after losing to Founder, Highly Motivated captured the Nyquist Stakes on the Breeders' Cup undercard easily by 4 1/4 lengths with a 109 TimeformUS figure.
Mandaloun’s 92 BRIS Speed Rating also gives him the highest last-race speed figure in the Lecomte, at least on the BRIS scale. Mandaloun’s 93 figure on TimeformUS is not as impressive because a couple of other entries show figures at 100 or higher, but it still works as a competitive number he can build upon.
In terms of pedigree, Mandaloun displays a nice balance of speed over stamina. He is sired by Into Mischief, who is balanced out by a route-oriented damside. On the bottom, Mandaloun shows successful sire names such as Empire Maker and Dansili to give confidence Mandaloun can handle the 1 1/16-mile distance.
Mandaloun is the top choice. He gives the impression of an improving colt capable of blossoming into a legitimate Derby horse for Cox. From Post 11, Mandaloun could use his tactical speed to gain a great stalking position. If the route distance does indeed fit his pedigree, then expect him to contend for the win.
Another interesting name with no stakes experience is Beep Beep, who took a seven-furlong maiden race at Churchill Downs with a 98 on TimeformUS and 83 on BRIS. In other words, he is faster than Mandaloun in the former and slower on the latter. Regardless, find the replay of his maiden race on the Churchill Downs website.
In Beep Beep’s Nov. 29 win, he presses the pace while running wide, before taking over in the stretch run for a 3 1/2-length win. He took the race in a fairly easy manner, with jockey Joe Talamo using the stick only a few times.
Beep Beep gives a good visual impression. But he is also cross-entered in an allowance optional claimer on the same card.
Based on his maiden win, give Beep Beep a close look in either race.
Finally, Midnight Bourbon might take this race by default.
Even though Midnight Bourbon lost the Champagne Stakes by 14 1/4 lengths to Jackie's Warrior, he still ran a 97 TimeformUS Speed Figure. For his runner-up finish in the Iroquois, he also shows an impressive 109 on TimeformUS. If Midnight Bourbon only repeats the latter 109 figure, he will probably win here.
What if the 109 on TimeformUS is an outlier? In that case, Midnight Bourbon merely needs to build on the 97 speed figure. Considering that most Tiznow progeny develop at a slow pace, it is possible that he moves forward in a significant manner as a 3-year-old colt.
With that said, the familiar combination of Ricardo Santana Jr. and Asmussen does not help his overall value. On the Derby trail, the public favors familiarity, and this horse already is known because of those placings in two graded stakes races. In contrast, Mandaloun is just a maiden and optional claiming winner trying to move up. Who is likely to get more attention?
Nevertheless, Midnight Bourbon remains a win threat. If his odds drift up higher than Mandaloun, then give him greater consideration.
Mandaloun gains the nod as the top horse in this analysis, though. Even though he lacks stakes experience, the Lecomte Stakes is not a very strong prep race. At 3-1 or higher, consider playing Mandaloun to Win.
For those interested in multi-race wagers, then throw in Beep Beep (if he runs) and Midnight Bourbon too.
|Rank||Silks||Horse / Sire||Rating||Trainer / Jockey||Last Start||Status|
R. Santana, Jr.
B. Hernandez, Jr.