If any horse this year has earned his retirement and a subsequent lifetime of “work” in the breeding shed, it’s MENDELSSOHN. He made six cross-Atlantic trips to America this year and one to Dubai, which is as long as his trips to America. And that was after finishing last year with a trip to Del Mar in November where he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). Eight long trips in the span of 13 months is risking a lot, especially of a colt by the late Scat Daddy that cost $3 million as a yearling two years ago.
In his favor was that he shipped like a champ. He showed up at Del Mar last year and, despite screaming his lungs out looking for his mates, he behaved well. I say behaved well relatively speaking since he was a handful before every race but that was not a sign of being afraid to run but a lack of patience to get things going.
Being by the late Scat Daddy and having already won a Grade 1 stakes race, dirt racing was in his future this year. He won an all-weather stakes race at Dundalk in Ireland to kick off the year then he shipped to Meydan for his dirt debut where he won the UAE Derby (G2) by over 18 lengths in spectacular time. Now it was on to the Kentucky Derby (G1) where what could go bad went bad.
Clobbered at the start on a sloppy track, he raced in behind horses while being bumped around. The two speed horses ran one-two that day but he was never able to use his natural speed and after being out of contention, Ryan Moore wisely eased him to a canter in the stretch.
The May 17 foal skipped the rest of the Triple Crown but trainer Aidan O’Brien was undeterred as he brought him back for the one-mile Dwyer (G3) going one turn at Belmont Park on July 7. He raced up near the lead and looked strong until Moore asked him to go and the answer was “Not Today.” O’Brien’s barn had a virus go through it this spring into summer and he clearly ran out of air in the stretch of the Dwyer.
O’Brien brought him back for the 1 1/4-mile Travers (G1) and Mendelssohn was fantastic. Ryan Moore sent him to the front and was stalked by Catholic Boy. Those two drew away and Catholic Boy was the strongest in the stretch. Mendelssohn held well for second and his BRIS speed rating of 104 was very good.
Here is where I thought O’Brien made the first of two mistakes. He chose the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) as his next start and waiting for him was the equally speedy Diversify, winner of the Whitney (G1) in his last start. Thunder Snow and those two could not hold off the final surge of Discreet Lover.
The Pennsylvania Derby (G1) going nine furlongs would have been the better option which was run four weeks after the Travers but six weeks before the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). I know with the cross-Atlantic shipping, it might have been tight but a tough 10 furlongs before the Classic was not the way to go.
In the Classic, Mendelssohn opened up a lead to the top of the stretch where he began to weaken. Only beaten four lengths, the early pace took its toll and he faded to fifth.
The second mistake I thought O’Brien made in managing Mendelssohn was bringing him back in the Cigar Mile (G1) four weeks later. As fast as he is, going a one-turn mile is a different kind of pace scenario. He drew post 1 and Jose Ortiz sent winner Patternrecognition to the front from post 8. Moore had nowhere to go down on the inside after trying to get outside of Ortiz, Moore wound up racing between horses in third. With three furlongs to go, Moore had him in an all-out drive and to his credit, Mendelssohn was still showing interest in the deep stretch but could not make up any ground on the winner who had things his own way on the front end.
Had he skipped the Cigar Mile, he would have been perfect for the Pegasus World Cup (G1) in January going 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream Park. With his gate speed, he could have handled any post position draw but his Coolmore owners have announced his retirement to stud. He will stand for $35,000 at their Ashford Stud in Versailles, Kentucky.
By the late Scat Daddy, who was about to stand for a $100,000 stud fee before he passed away, Mendelssohn is a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Into Mischief, who is the sixth leading sire of 2018 and whose stud fee will be $150,000 next year, and the immortal Beholder, who was a four-time champion that won 11 Grade 1 stakes and earned more than $6.1 million.
At $35,000, his initial stud fee is a steal and don’t be surprised if he breeds over 200 mares his first few years at stud. He has everything you could want in a sire and had a few things went his way, we would probably be looking at a stud fee much higher.
Mendelssohn (Lauren Pomeroy/Horsephotos.com)