Mandaloun and Midnight Bourbon: Strong outsiders for the Kentucky Derby?

There are major doubts over Mandaloun and Midnight Bourbon's chances in the Kentucky Derby, but both have shown enough promise to be considered genuine contenders...

The Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs is fast approaching and with a number of high-profile early scratches, the 20-horse field is wide open. The qualifying races were filled with upsets, some of them stunning, resulting in only one clear-cut favourite among them.

With fewer than 10 days left until the Run for the Roses, we continue our series examining the field and recapping the accomplishments of the horses that will compete in the first race of the 2021 Triple Crown series.

Mandaloun: Poor in the Louisiana Derby, but does it matter?

One of three Brad Cox trained horses expected to compete in the Kentucky Derby, Mandaloun's inconsistent performances make it difficult to get a good handle on how he will compete at Churchill Downs, although William Hill have him out at 25/1.

He opened his three prep race schedule, all at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, with a third-place finish in the 10-4-2-1 Lecomte Stakes in January.

Against virtually the same field a month later, Mandaloun pulled off a victory in the 50-20-10-5 Risen Star Stakes, elevating him to one of the Triple Crown favourites in anticipation of the 100-40-20-10 Louisiana Derby in March. However, as the 6/5 favourite, he continually lost ground, ultimately dropping to a sixth-place finish, well off the pace of winner Hot Rod Charlie.

Mandaloun raced lightly as a two-year-old, not making his racing debut until breaking his maiden on October 24 at Keeneland. The victory in the Risen Star was his third in his first four races, but the disappointing run in the Louisiana Derby is difficult to analyse.

He had already solidified his spot in the Kentucky Derby with the points earned in the Risen Star, so it's hard to take much from his last outing, especially if Cox was just trying to keep him safe and fresh for the future. He's competed and won against tough competition, so he might be one to keep in mind for a show bet or multiple horse wagers at the Derby.

Midnight Bourbon: Finishing speed a concern

Trainers Steve Asmussen and Brad Cox regularly pit their horses against each other, especially at Oaklawn Park and the Fair Grounds. The prep races at the latter were no exception, as Midnight Bourbon competed in the same contests as Mandaloun, finishing in the top three in all of them. Like Mandaloun, Midnight Bourbon is also rated at 25/1 for the Kentucky Derby.

He won the Lecomte Stakes, came in third at the Risen Star, and followed that up with a runner-up finish in the Louisiana Derby. In the last race, Midnight Bourbon battled Hot Rod Charlie for the entire race, but the winner ended up pulling away down the stretch for a two-length victory.

The lack of closing speed at a mile and an eighth and a mile and three-sixteenths should be a concern since he'll be stretched another half furlong in the Kentucky Derby. It wouldn't be surprising to see him setting the early pace or at least staying with the leaders into the stretch, but whether he can finish it off at a mile and a quarter is another story.