At this time last year, Midnight Bourbon emerged as a 3-year-old to follow on the Kentucky Derby trail with a win in the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds. A year later, he returns for the Louisiana Stakes (G3), looking to springboard himself to a strong 4-year-old campaign.
The Louisiana Stakes will be an easier return spot for Midnight Bourbon than the Pegasus World Cup (G1), which also was under consideration. But it will not be a walk in the park because of the presence of his rival Mandaloun.
Mandaloun and Midnight Bourbon already have squared off five times in their short careers. Midnight Bourbon has gotten the better of Mandaloun twice, while Mandaloun has finished ahead of Midnight Bourbon three times.
Mandaloun, who has not raced since being placed first in the Haskell (G1), will tackle older foes for the first time in this field of seven on Saturday.
Here is a full-field analysis for the 1 1/16-mile Louisiana, with odds provided by the Horse Racing Nation staff. The Louisiana is carded as race 13 of 14, with post time scheduled for 6:49 p.m. EST.
1. Chess Chief (10-1 – Into Mischief– Dallas Stewart / Reylu Gutierrez – 30: 5-4-4 - $810,338) Stewart's late runner is a bit inconsistent, but he has run well under two conditions: at Fair Grounds and with Lasix. Both conditions will be met on Saturday as he looks for his sixth career win at the New Orleans track. Live long shot.
2. Mandaloun (6-5 – Into Mischief – Brad Cox / Florent Geroux – 8: 5-1 -1 - $1,651,252) Many would call this colt the luckiest horse in racing as he was placed first in the Haskell via disqualification and could end up being declared the winner of the Kentucky Derby. But don't let that take away from his immense talent. He has been defeated by more than a length only once in eight starts, he has a win over the track and he will get Lasix for the first time. This race is a prep, but he is the most talented horse in the field and is likely to accomplish big things in the older division. The one to beat.
3. Midnight Bourbon (8-5 – Tiznow – Steve Asmussen / Joel Rosario – 13: 2-5-4 - $1,167,970) The likely pace-setter is as tough as nails and danced in many of the major dances during a busy 3-year-old campaign. He also adds Lasix for the first time and interestingly adds blinkers as well. With two wins in 13 starts, he always has been just a step below the very best in the division. Will the blinkers be enough to even the playing field? They could be, but after a long campaign and an average effort in the Clark (G1), it also is possible that this colt has peaked. Contender, but vulnerable at short odds.
4. Sprawl (12-1 – City Zip – Thomas Drury / Colby Hernandez – 17: 4-0-5 - $406,653) This talented son of City Zip adores this distance, with four wins in five starts. He has been pressing the pace lately but used to come from behind early in his career. He will be best suited avoiding a duel with Midnight Bourbon and Pirate's Punch and sitting third. He could work out a nice trip and have a say at a price, especially if there is any moisture in the track. Live long shot.
5. Pirate's Punch (10-1 – Shanghai Bobby – Grant Forster / Corey Lanerie – 23: 5-3-5 - $355,550) This old warrior has always been best at a mile at Monmouth. He is likely to press Midnight Bourbon early and pay the price late. He was not nearly as sharp in 2020 as he was in 2021 and appears to be going the wrong way. Toss.
6. Warrant (6-1 – Constitution – Brad Cox / Florent Geroux – 7: 3-3-1- $634,700) It is hard to discount an improving runner from this barn, but this is a big step up in class for this colt as he tackles older foes for the first time. His consistently should be admired, but he is not quite at this level yet after winning the Oklahoma Derby (G3) in September. Use underneath if playing superfectas.
7. Spa City (20-1 – Street Sense – Tom Amoss / James Graham – 15: 5-2-3 - $205,552) Amoss has done a nice job with this runner claimed for $40,000. The waters get much deeper here, however, and he will not have a say unless there is heavy rain – he is undefeated on wet tracks. Toss.
Summary: An exacta of Mandaloun and Midnight Bourbon is entirely possible, but it will pay next to nothing. To try to make some money, it is best to split the two with a long shot in second. Experienced older runners Chess Chief, who loves the track, and Sprawl, who loves the distance, fit the bill. Of the two, I favor Sprawl slightly and prefer Mandaloun over Midnight Bourbon. It might be wise to even put a few bucks on Sprawl in case Mandaloun is not fully cranked. Warrant is a nice colt with a good future, but I think this is a little too much too soon for him. He is a good horse to use fourth in superfectas. Below are the trifectas I would zero in on.
Mandaloun - Sprawl, Chess Chief - Sprawl, Chess Chief, Midnight Bourbon
Sprawl, Mandaloun - Sprawl, Mandaloun - Chess Chief, Midnight Bourbon