Mandaloun (inside) won the Haskell Stakes by disqualification. Photo Taylor Ejdys/EQUI-PHOTO.

Mandaloun got the victory in Saturday’s $1 million Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park, but not the way his connections would have liked to get it.

Mandaloun engaged in a thrilling stretch battle with favored Hot Rod Charlie but was denied at the wire. However, as the duo was pulling clear in mid-stretch, Mandaloun along the rail and Hot Rod Charlie to the outside, the two of them sandwiching Midnight Bourbon, Hot Rod Charlie came down towards his rival, cutting in front of Midnight Bourbon in the process.

Midnight Bourbon clipped heels and fell to the track, tossing jockey Paco Lopez. Midnight Bourbon rose and, riderless, completed the course.

“(Paco) has a soft tissue injury to his right knee and ankle. He was alert and oriented,” said Dr. Angelo Chinnici, Monmouth’s medical director. “He was not taken to the hospital. He took off (the rest of the card) as a precaution. He said he was very disappointed because he thought he had a ton of horse.”

Flavien Prat, rider of Hot Rod Charlie, apologized to Lopez following the incident, with Lopez replying, “It happens, man.”

After an inquiry, the stewards disqualified Hot Rod Charlie for causing the accident and placed him last. That elevated Mandaloun to the top spot.

“I hope the horse that fell is OK, and the jock, as well,” Mandaloun’s trainer, Brad Cox, said after the race. “You hope everything goes OK.”

The win gave Mandaloun his first in Grade 1 company and fifth in eight career starts. The winner’s share will push him past $1.6 million in career earnings. And his earnings may be set to grow even further: he finished second in the Kentucky Derby May 1, and if, as expected, winner Medina Spirit is disqualified because of a positive betamethasone test, that will give Mandaloun the win in that race, as well.

The intriguing field included the runners-up in all three Triple Crown races, with Preakness runner-up Midnight Bourbon and Belmont runner-up Hot Rod Charlie joining Mandaloun in the second-place club. Also on board was Following Sea, the Todd Pletcher trainee who’d won his last two starts by a combined dozen lengths but who was trying two turns and stakes company for the first time.

As the gates opened, it was Following Sea, with Joel Rosario, who seized the early advantage. But Paco Lopez, on the Steve Asmussen-trained Midnight Bourbon, quickly moved up to shadow that rival. Meanwhile, Hot Rod Charlie, off as the 4-5 favorite, and Mandaloun were in mid-flight, biding their time behind six furlongs in 1:10.64.

As the field neared the far turn, Midnight Bourbon turned up the heat on Following Sea, and by the five-sixteenths, Following Sea was all in.

Hot Rod Charlie and Flavien Prat went to the attack three-wide, while Mandaloun and Florent Geroux had to wait briefly and shift around the tiring Following Sea before diving to the rail for the stretch run. Those two then engaged in a tight battle decided by a nose – but marred by the foul.

“I had my sights on Hot Rod Charlie,” Geroux said. “When Hot Rod Charlie tipped out, I decided to go inside. It was a very hard battle. Hot Rod Charlie was going to win by a neck and right at the end my horse came back and made it really close.” 

Running time for the 1 1/8 miles over a fast main track was 1:47.38.

With Hot Rod Charlie’s disqualification, Following Sea moved up to second, and longshot Antigravity was third. Mandaloun paid $8.20 to win as the second choice and topped an exacta worth $17.50 for a dollar.

After Mandaloun’s stellar effort in the Kentucky Derby, Cox and his owners, Juddmonte, decided to target the Haskell, bypassing the other Triple Crown races and only returning in a cozy spot in Monmouth’s Pegasus Stakes June 5, in which, as the 3-10 favorite, he defeated Weyburn.

“Having the race over the track paid off today,” Cox said. “He sat a good trip, saved all the ground, punched on down the lane and finished up well. Very proud of his effort.”

“It is not the best way to win but Mandaloun ran a winning race and deserves this,” Geroux said.

At right, Mandaloun and Hot Rod Charlie slug it out, while jockey Paco Lopez is on the ground and his horse, Midnight Bourbon, runs on (at left). Photo Mark Wyville/EQUI-PHOTO.

With one Grade 1 win now in the bank, Cox is hoping Mandaloun can add another one as a three-year-old. He said the Into Mischief colt would ship to Saratoga tomorrow morning, with the Travers and Pennsylvania Derby on the radar as potential next starts.

“We’ll just regroup, take a deep breath with him, let him catch his breath,” Cox said. “We’ll come up with a plan… Hopefully we can pick out a spot and add to his resume.”

One race prior to the Haskell, the Chad Brown-trained Tribhuvan posted a front-running score in the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes on the Monmouth turf. Under Flavien Prat, Tribhuvan gained the early advantage, was able to take a breather through soft interior fractions, and had plenty left to come home swiftly and maintain a two-length advantage.

It was the first Grade 1 win for the French-bred Tribhuvan second graded win overall.

Other graded stakes winners on the day: Graceful Princess took the Grade 3 Molly Pitcher, Dr Post won the Grade 3 Monmouth Cup, and Great Island scored in the Grade 3 Matchmaker.