Mendelssohn, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, made his long-waited debut on the 2018 Kentucky Derby trail a winning one in the Patton Stakes at Dundalk Racecourse in Ireland. The Patton was run at a distance of 1,600 meters, which is just under a mile, on a synthetic surface going around the track in the same direction as American racing.
Mendelssohn’s trainer Aidan O’Brien has won just about every important race in the world including a record setting 28 Grade 1 races in 2017, but he has not fared well in the Run for the Roses. O’Brien has had five Derby starters since 2002, with Master of Hounds’ fifth place finish in 2011 the best for the Irish-based trainer.
Mendelssohn was making his first start since his impressive victory in the Breeders’ Cup. That race has turned out to be a key race on the Kentucky Derby trail with horses like Catholic Boy, Snapper Sinclair, Flameaway, and My Boy Jack all exiting the November event to run big.
As a half-brother to the Champion Beholder and the prolific sire Into Mischief, Mendelssohn has an outstanding pedigree for dirt racing. The American-bred son of Scat Daddy was the eye-catching $3 million sale topper at the 2016 Keeneland September sale.
In the Patton, regular rider Ryan Moore needed to ask his mount to dig in down the stretch and he responded to draw off to beat the competition by a comfortable three-quarters of a length in what should be described as a very solid return to the races.
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) March 9, 2018
“The plan was to hopefully come here and then go to Dubai and then hopefully go to the Kentucky Derby,” said O’Brien. “Obviously, we always felt that we would need a couple of runs in this part of the world before we go. So far, it’s lovely. I’m delighted.”
The Patton was the sixth start of Mendelssohn’s career. He broke his maiden at second asking at the Curragh and followed that with a seventh-place finish in a Group 2 at Doncaster. In his next start at Newmarket, he ran second to his highly regarded stablemate U.S. Navy Flag. Now O’Brien’s Derby hopeful has put together two victories.
O’Brien said that he has learned that a successful Derby contender is rare, “You need a very good horse, a very seasoned and hardened horse. He needs to be tactically quick, he has to travel strong, and he has to be tough at the end. So, you just need a very good horse really.”
Mendelssohn has been on the list of individual betting interests in all three of the Kentucky Derby Future Wagers. In Pool 1, he closed at 33-1. Time passed, and as new contenders emerged his odds in Pool 2 floated up to 44-1. I bet him in both of those pools and I’ll bet him in Pool 3 this weekend where he was 30-1 on the morning line.
Next stop for Mendelssohn is the UAE Derby (G2) at Meydan on March 31 where he will face Gold Town, the very impressive winner of the UAE 2,000 Guineas (G3). Mendelssohn will need to finish first or second in Dubai to get enough points to qualify for the Derby. O’Brien’s runner is tied for first on the European road to the Derby, but they are skipping the final race on that path that is worth 30 to the winner.
Is Mendelssohn finally that “very good horse” that can give O’Brien a chance to add the Kentucky Derby to his very lengthy training resume? It seems that the Coolmore runner is right on the planned schedule to get to Kentucky.
Photo of Mendelssohn courtesy of Healy Photography