First-Crop Sires: Expectations High For Mendelssohn

August 23rd, 2022

TwinSpires Edge voters have made it clear: they’d like Mendelssohn to be one of the first-crop sires that we focus on in 2022.

Earlier this month we introduced our first-crop sire series, noting that we would be profiling Justify, Bolt d’Oro, City of Light, Good Magic, and Girvin.

But we also gave readers the chance to choose one more sire for us to follow. The five options we presented were Always Dreaming, Collected, Mendelssohn, Sharp Azteca, and West Coast.

All of them were Grade 1 winners and would have been worthy horses to follow. But the poll didn’t turn out to be close, with Mendelssohn getting twice as many votes as any of his nearest rivals. So for the rest of the year, we will keep you up to date with how his first progeny begin their racing careers.

A standout from day one

The colt attracted attention from the moment he entered the Keeneland sale ring, being bought by M.V. Magnier for $3 million and sent to the stable of Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien. The Coolmore operation likes to name many of its runners after historical figures from the arts (think Dylan Thomas, Yeats, Caravaggio, and Anthony Van Dyck), and like Coolmore’s Group/Grade 1 winners Stravinsky, Mozart, and Beethoven, Mendelssohn was named after a great classical music composer.

Mendelssohn didn’t take long to show his ability. He proved a very good two-year-old, finishing second in the Dewhurst (G1), England’s most prestigious juvenile race, before heading across the Atlantic to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).

With his pedigree, his connections eyed up the Kentucky Derby rather than the European alternatives, and he looked set for a big showing when destroying his opponents in the UAE Derby (G2) by 18 1/2 lengths. Unfortunately, he was checked twice at Churchill Downs and did not handle the sloppy track, finishing last in a race won by another son of Scat Daddy, Justify.

O’Brien was confident Mendelssohn was better than he showed at Churchill Downs and gave him a chance to redeem himself, and though he didn’t win in five further American starts, he never finished farther back than fifth. His best performances came when second in the Travers (G1) and fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

Though he didn’t recoup his purchase price on the track, earning $2.5 million, the investment has well and truly paid off given he retired to Ashford Stud at a $35,000 fee. He had 175 foals from his first crop, so he’s going to get plenty of opportunities.

Mendelssohn has a pedigree to suggest he has a great chance as a stallion. His dam, Leslie’s Lady, along with producing 11-time Grade 1-winning champion Beholder, is also the dam of Into Mischief, the leading North American sire for the past three seasons.

With yearlings selling up to $900,000 and two-year-olds up to $1.3 million, there is a lot of anticipation about his progeny, and as of Aug. 22, he’d sired nine winners from 34 starters.

Mendelssohn’s first winner came in the slightly unexpected venue of Saudi Arabia. Racing in a 10-horse field over 1,200 meters (about six furlongs) at King Khalid racecourse in Taif, Shaqra’a Sultan beat a field of 10 (including four colts) by 1 3/4 lengths.

Shaqra’a Sultan is a homebred for Prince Sultan Bin Mishal Bin Abdulaziz. The prince bought Shaqra’a Sultan in utero when he purchased her dam Juno, a multiple Group 1 winner in Brazil, at the 2019 Keeneland November sale from Denali Stud for $270,000.

Mendelssohn’s second winner, and first in North America, came on July 16 when Fadethenoise won a 5 1/2-furlong turf dash at Ellis Park. Improving sharply after finishing last of 11 on debut at Churchill Downs June 9, Fadethenoise led most of the way before scoring by six lengths under Martin Garcia.

He recorded a Brisnet Speed rating of 80 and a class rating of 114.0, and he improved the latter to 115.1 when sixth in the Skidmore Stakes at Saratoga Aug. 19. Trained by Michael Maker, the Michael Hui homebred is out of the Stay Thirsty mare Hey Paige.

The best of Mendelssohn’s progeny to date is arguably Miracle, a filly out of the Smart Strike mare Good Omen. Starting at nearly 15-1 on debut in a six-furlong maiden special weight for New York-bred fillies at Saratoga July 27, Miracle thrashed her opponents by six lengths, recording a Brisnet class rating of 118.0, the highest to date by any of Mendelssohn’s winners, and a Brisnet Speed rating of 89.

Sold three times at auction, most recently for $360,000 at the OBS March Sale of two-year-olds, Miracle is trained by Rodolphe Brisset. She is entered for the 6 1/2-furlong Seeking the Ante Stakes at Saratoga Aug. 26.

Mendelssohn’s best colt to date is probably Classical Cat. He won his only race to date, scoring by 2 1/2 lengths at odds of 5.6-1 over 5 1/2 furlongs on the Del Mar dirt Aug. 20. The Phil D’Amato trainee, a $65,000 Keeneland September Yearling purchase, recorded a Speed rating of 90, the highest to date for progeny of Mendelssohn, and a good class rating of 116.6.

Another son of Mendelssohn to succeed at Del Mar this year was Wound Up, from the stable of Michael McCarthy. A $280,000 purchase at the OBS April two-year-old sale, Wound Up won by a neck on debut over five furlongs on turf at Del Mar Aug. 11. Wound Up, who recorded a Speed rating of 81 and a class rating of 114.8, is out of the stakes-winning Distorted Humor mare Banker’s Buy.

Mendelssohn’s highest earner to date has been Pink Hue, who was successful at her sole start to date. She won over 1 1/16 miles at Saratoga for trainer Chad Brown by 2 3/4 lengths on the inner turf, picking up $57,750 while recording an 86 Speed rating and 114.8 class rating.

Other winners to date for Mendelssohn have been Belt Parkway (Speed rating 76, class rating 113.2), successful at Parx over 5 1/2 furlongs Aug. 3; Penny Polka (SR 67, CR 111.1), victorious at Delaware Park July 28; and Quincy Café (SR 76, CR 112.5), promoted to first over seven furlongs at Laurel Park July 31.

Mendelssohn’s record and his pedigree suggest his progeny have enough ability to excel at two while also going on to improve as they get older. He has been given every chance to succeed, and his progeny’s efforts will be watched with interest.