Winners of the UAE Derby, an official Kentucky Derby points race, are seldom granted much respect when it comes to winning the Kentucky Derby. This year, that might change.
On Saturday evening at Dubai's Meydan Racecourse, the Kentucky-bred Mendelssohn crushed his rivals with an 18+-length victory, setting a new course record in the process. He's trained by the Irish-based Aiden O'Brien, who has sent a number of runners to Churchill Downs, only to find disappointment.
Though bred in the U.S. with a dirt pedigree, Mendelssohn ran exclusively on grass in Ireland and England until his last race, when he won the 32red Patton Stakes at Dundalk on a synthetic surface, which generally plays more like grass than dirt, and last fall he won the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar in California.
But O'Brien, one of the world's premier trainers, wants to win the Kentucky Derby, and this colt has the pedigree to do it. He's sired by Scat Daddy, a multiple graded stakes winner who retired at age three and became an unexpectedly successful sire; considered one of the hottest stallions in the US, he died in 2015, but his progeny continue to impress on the racetrack.
His dam, Leslie's Lady, might be even more impressive. Though she was unremarkable on the racetrack, as a broodmare she produced Beholder, a multiple champion who retired with earnings of more than $6 million.
M.V. Magnier thought enough of Mendelssohn to pay $3 million for him at the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2016; the horse earned over $1 million, and his win in the UAE Derby gives him more than enough points to get into the starting gate at Churchill Downs, which O'Brien indicated will the horse's next target.
"We are over the moon,” the trainer told Dubai Racing Media. "He came forward lovely from his run at Dundalk a few weeks ago. He is bred to handle the dirt, being by Scat Daddy. But that was an unbelievable performance. We weren’t sure how he would handle the distance but you have to say he saw it out pretty well."
There will still be skeptics, but certainly, the way Mendelssohn handled the dirt and his utter dominance will bring intrigue--and betting dollars--to this year's renewal of the Run for the Roses.
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