Mandaloun and Rombauer pick up victories on Road to the Kentucky Derby

There were two stakes races run on opposite sides of the country this Saturday as the Kentucky Derby draws nearer.

At the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, the $400,000 1 1/8-mile Risen Star wrapped up a 13-race card at the historic track. It was the second of three qualifying races to be held at the venerable racetrack, this one offering points on a 50-20-10-5 scale.

The top three finishers at the January 15 Lecomte Stakes, Midnight Bourbon, Proxy and Mandaloun, were back for the Risen Star. They headed a stellar field that also included Remington Mile winner Senor Buscador.

Keepmeinmind, who started the weekend in second place in Kentucky Derby qualifying points behind Essential Quality, was also entered but, as expected, was a late scratch. He'll run instead next week in the rescheduled Southwest at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.

Mandaloun, despite finishing third to Midnight Bourbon in the Lecomte, was the morning line favorite at 9/2 from the 11th post position. Along with Senor Buscador in the fifth position, Midnight Bourbon was at 6/1 in position 6, with Proxy at 8/1 from the second spot. Prior to scratching, Keepmeinmind was at 3/1 and would have started far outside at 12th.

Midnight Bourbon led for most of the race, but couldn't pull away from the rest of the field. At the 1/16th pole, Mandaloun edged in front and held on for the win.

It looked like Midnight Bourbon might hang on for second and the 20 points that went with it. Instead, Proxy made a late charge and finished in the runner-up spot in a photo finish over the Lecomte champion.

Mandaloun picked up 50 points for the victory and, judging from recent years, most likely punched his ticket to the Kentucky Derby, as he is currently in first place with 52 total points. He paid $6.20 for the win, $4.00 for the show bet and $3.00 for the show.

Proxy paid $5.20 and $3.60, while Midnight Bourbon paid $3.80. O Besos went off at 12/1 and came in fourth, picking up five points in the Derby sweepstakes.

Midnight Bourbon and Proxy will still have some work to do if they want to run at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. They have 26 and 24 points, respectively, currently good for third and fourth place behind the 30 points of Essential Quality, who will join Keepmeinmind at the Southwest on January 20.

El Camino Real Derby

Out west at Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley, Calif., was the $100,000 El Camino Real Derby. The 1 1/8-mile race awarded points on the 10-4-2-1 scale and was the eighth of nine races on the card.

Rombauer was the favorite of the nine horses in the field with 8/5 odds, followed by Javanica at 5/2. Petruchio rounded out the top three at 3/1, with Waspirant fourth at 8/1.

Rombauer broke from the far outside ninth position and was off the pace until the final turn. He chased down Javanica to win by a neck and grabbed the 10 qualifying points that went with it.

His 14 total points leave him a strong outing or two away from sewing up an invitation to the Kentucky Derby.

He paid $4.40, $2.40 and $2.20, with the runner-up paying $3.00 and $2.80, followed by 50/1 longshot Governor's party in third place, paying $15.40 for the show bet. It's My House finished out of the money in fourth but picked up a qualifying point.

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