Mendelssohn wins the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf
Mendelssohn wins the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Winner Mendelssohn

by Alastair Bull

He may have won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) last year, but the Kentucky Derby has been at the back of the mind of Mendelssohn’s Coolmore-linked connections for some time – probably from the time he was purchased.

A $3 million purchase at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale by MV Magnier, Mendelssohn is raced by Derrick Smith, Michael Tabor, and Susan Magnier, the wife of Coolmore head John Magnier.

Mendelssohn was taken to Ireland after his purchase and put in the stable of Aidan O’Brien, where he has progressed well.

Mendelssohn was well beaten on his debut at The Curragh, but then won his second start, a one-mile maiden at the same venue. He then finished last of seven behind stablemate Seahenge in the Champagne Stakes (G2) at Doncaster, but improved greatly to finish second behind another stablemate, U S Navy Flag, in the Dewhurst Stakes (G1) at 50-1 odds.

That prompted O’Brien to bring Mendelssohn to the United States for the Juvenile Turf and he duly obliged, winning by a length.

Though the surface was turf, that race has proved a useful guide to the Kentucky Derby preps, with fourth-place finisher Catholic Boy and eighth-place finisher Flameaway both winning preps, while Snapper Sinclair, 12th in the race, subsequently finished second in the Risen Star Stakes (G2).

Mendelssohn added to that record when he won the Patton Stakes on the all-weather track at Dundalk, overcoming a dogged challenge from his stablemate Threeandfourpence. It earned him 20 points and joint-first place on the European Road to the Kentucky Derby table. At last report he was expected to race next in the UAE Derby March 31, which is part of the regular Road to the Kentucky Derby program, rather than the final European Road contest, the Burradon Stakes March 30.

Mendelssohn is from the second-last crop of the much-missed Ashford Stud stallion Scat Daddy, an outstanding stallion in two hemispheres. Scat Daddy was champion sire of Chile for four consecutive seasons, and his progeny have excelled on both dirt and turf in North America and Europe.

A number of his best northern hemisphere runners have been sprinters, such as Lady Aurelia and Caravaggio, but he’s also sired horses capable of running 1 ¼ miles and further, such as Harmonize, Lady of Shamrock, and Daddys Lil Darling.

What gives greater confidence about his Derby credentials is the fact he’s out of the outstanding broodmare Leslie’s Lady. A stakes winner of five races, the Tricky Creek mare has also produced Into Mischief, a grade one winner who has made a great start at stud, and the champion mare Beholder, a multiple grade one winner who was able to beat the males in the 1 ¼-mile Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar.

It’s a pedigree that suggests dirt is well within Mendelssohn’s scope, as is 1 ¼ miles. His relentless racing style and turn of foot also gives cause to believe 1 ¼ miles should be possible. He should be carefully watched.