In his 47th year as a trainer, Richard Mandella is in the midst of yet another productive season.
With only 76 starters through Wednesday, the Hall of Famer has won at a 28 percent clip while amassing more than $1.73 million in earnings to rank 32nd nationally in that category. He has saddled six different graded-stakes winners this year.
While the Mandella barn has been clicking along, Memorial Day at Santa Anita proved a bit of a frustrating day at the office. Promising filly Soothsay failed to deliver as the favorite in the Summertime Oaks (G2); Royal Ship was nailed late by Country Grammer in the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1); and his star turf horse, United, offered little resistance when finishing last as the odds-on favorite in the Charles Whittingham (G1).
On Wednesday at Santa Anita, the veteran Mandella shook off the results with a shrug and a customary quick quip.
“The life of a horse trainer."
Below is the latest on five of Mandella's stakes horses.
United. The 6-year-old gelding has amassed more than $1.5 million in earnings and competed in the last two runnings of the Breeders’ Cup Turf for owner LNJ Foxwoods. A third try at the Breeders’ Cup might be precarious after United’s performance in the Whittingham. Two days after the race, Mandella said he had not found a reason for the disappointing effort.
“He came up empty and we’re not really sure why,” Mandella said. “We’re going to thoroughly check him out. So far we can’t find anything. We’ll do a body scan and everything else to make sure I’m not missing something.”
United burst onto the national scene when running second in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Sana Anita at odds of 51-1. The son of Giant’s Causeway has compiled a record of 19: 8-4-1 in three-plus seasons of racing.
Soothsay. Bet down to the 4-5 favorite in the Summertime Oaks, the 3-year-old pressed the pace throughout before being overtaken late by eastern invader Crazy Beautiful and falling 1 3/4 lengths short. It was her first loss in three starts after previously scoring on debut in late February at Santa Anita and coming back to win the Santa Anita Oaks (G2) in early April.
Although she was the beaten favorite in the Summertime, Mandella came away satisfied with his still-developing filly.
“She ran well, the other filly just ran better,” said Mandella of multiple stakes winner Crazy Beautiful, who was exiting a disappointing 10th in the Kentucky Oaks for trainer Ken McPeek.
Soothsay will head to Del Mar with the rest of Mandella’s stable this summer. But with limited options for 3-year-old dirt fillies there, a potential next start remains to be determined.
“We’ll get her down to Del Mar and decide what to do,” Mandella said.
Royal Ship. After arriving from Brazil last summer, the 5-year-old Midshipman gelding alternated between dirt and turf in a quartet of graded-stakes starts before finally breaking through on dirt with a neck victory over Country Grammer in the April 17 Californian (G2).
In their Memorial Day rematch, Royal Ship had the lead in the final furlong before getting overtaken late by Country Grammer to lose by a head.
“He ran good,” Mandella said. “I’m still learning about him. It looked like he made the lead and then hung a little bit, but he ran well. I can’t complain.”
Royal Ship will be pointed to the $250,000 San Diego Handicap (G2) on July 17 as a prep for the $750,000 Pacific Classic (G1) on Aug. 21, both at Del Mar.
Tizamagician. After a somewhat disappointing sophomore season, the son of Tiznow has turned into a solid graded-stakes performer going longer distances on dirt this year. After finishing runner-up in the nine-furlong San Pasqual to kick off the campaign, Tizamagician came back to be fifth in the 10-furlong Santa Anita Handicap (G1) and then won the 12-furlong Tokyo City Cup (G3) in April at Santa Anita. He was shipped to New York this week for a start in Saturday’s $400,000 Brooklyn Handicap (G2), also at 12 furlongs.
“A mile and a half on dirt, that’s what he likes. And the pot is good,” Mandella said of the decision to ship Tizamagician across the country.
Astute. The 3-year-old Speightstown filly, also owned by LNJ Foxwoods, won her second stakes in four starts last month in the seven-furlong Angels Flight at Santa Anita. She worked twice after that win, which was her seasonal bow, but subsequently developed a physical problem that has forced Mandella to back off her training.
“We’re having trouble with her,” Mandella said. “She stiffened up on me and we’re trying to figure it out.”
Astute was a debut winner last fall at Santa Anita and came back to win the Desi Arnaz Stakes on turf at Del Mar before closing out her juvenile campaign with a fourth in the Starlet Stakes (G1).