Thoroughbred trainer Richard Mandella has been fabulously successful during his days in the game. Not long after sending his first starter to post back in 1974, this California native became a staple in his home state. A hall of fame career has been full of highlights. However, there is one itch he hopes to scratch in 2022.
This astutely humorous horse training mastermind has won over 2200 races and enjoyed lots of “big” wins over the years. Missing from his highly decorated resume is a win in the Kentucky Derby. Having sent six starters to post on the first Saturday in May (1984, 1994, 1995,1999, and 2 in 2004), Mandella has yet to visit the winner’s circle at the world’s most famous race.
“I used to think I was allergic to the Kentucky Derby”, smiles Mandella. “Now I am starting to think I have outgrown that allergy”.
Back in 2019, Omaha Beach looked like the one to take Richard Mandella to Kentucky Derby glory. Big wins in the Rebel Stakes and Arkansas Derby had this talented son of War Front listed as the Kentucky Derby favorite. Just days before the mile and a quarter run at immortality the injury bug bit and the caring conditioner scratched his stable star in the interest of the horse’s health.
Now it’s 2022 and Mandella again has another prime-time player on the road to the Kentucky Derby. Forbidden Kingdom has two stakes wins in 2022 with the latest being a gate to wire romp in the mile and a sixteenth San Felipe at Santa Anita on March 5. During that ultra-impressive two-turn debut, this son of American Pharoah jumped on the gas pedal early and never looked back.
“We are very excited about the way things went in the San Felipe”, says the trainer of superstar Beholder. “He’s got lots of natural speed so we kind of just let him do his thing. As he continues to mature and grows up he will learn to handle himself even better.”
Just five races into his career, this talented colt has been pretty good. Three wins, a second, and a third means he has always been right there. Improvement is always the goal of any young athlete. The man who engineered the end of the mighty Cigar’s 16 race win streak with Dare and Go’s upset in the 1996 Pacific Classic has witnessed plenty of progress in this Kingdom.
“Time will tell us how good he is”, says Mandella. “He is just growing both mentally and physically which is what you want to see in a young three-year-old. His career has started well, but he just continues to get better.”
Owned by Myracehorse and Spendthrift Farm, Forbidden Kingdom has not raced outside of California. If things go according to plan, his next start will probably be in the Santa Anita Derby on April 9. Likely with enough points (50) already to qualify for a spot in Kentucky Derby 148, Poppa Mandella hopes his dose of allergy medication continues to move in the right direction.
“I think about the Kentucky Derby every day”, says the man whose horses have won over $149 million on the track. “These are some exciting times for all the people connected with this horse. We are having lots of fun and just hope it can continue.”
The Kentucky Derby is run at Churchill Downs and is scheduled for May 7.