Mendelssohn, the 2-1 morning-line favorite for Saturday's $750,000 Cigar Mile, enjoyed his first steps over the Aqueduct main track on Friday morning as he continues his quest for a Grade 1 win on a dirt track.
The regally-bred Scat Daddy bay, a half-brother to both champion mare Beholder and leading sire Into Mischief, cleared quarantine at Belmont Park on Thursday before shipping to Aqueduct later that afternoon.
On Friday morning, a vociferous Mendelssohn, piloted by Alan Crowe, in company with maiden winner Family Tree, under Craig Bryson, trotted once around the track before picking up the pace.
“They just went around from the 7 1/2-furlong marker on the main track on the bend. It was just a gentle canter back around past the winning post, just to stretch his legs,” said T.J. Comerford, assistant to trainer Aidan O'Brien. “He's had two days off in the barn. That's him now, he was just stretching his legs more than anything.”
While Mendelssohn will be the first starter at Aqueduct for O'Brien, the barn is familiar with the facility, having previously stabled horses at the Big A ahead of starts at Belmont.
“It's a nice track here at Aqueduct. We used to come and quarantine here, and we might ride out a bit here before going to Belmont to race. It's a grand track and saddling area,” said Comerford.
The well-traveled Mendelssohn, bred in Kentucky by Clarkland Farm, has competed in Ireland, England, Dubai and the United States while posting a career record of 4-2-2 from 12 starts including scores in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf and the Group 2 UAE Derby.
Comerford said that Mendelssohn, who boasts $2,497,137 in purse earnings, has settled in well at Aqueduct.
“He's been very good. I'm very surprised how relaxed he is. He let a few shouts out this morning, which is good for him. Anytime I've brought him away that's a trait of his. He's in good order,” said Comerford.
After three consecutive Grade 1 starts at 1 1/4 miles, including a second in the Runhappy Travers, a third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and a solid fifth, after setting a swift pace, in the Breeders' Cup Classic, Mendelssohn will cut back to a one-turn mile on Saturday as he looks to best a talented group of eight.
Comerford said the colt, who will stand at Coolmore America's Ashford Stud in Kentucky in 2019, has the speed to get the job done.
“He's won over farther in Dubai and he gets a mile and a quarter, but he's a very quick horse and I'm sure he'll get the mile very well. We'll know a lot more tomorrow. Aidan is very pleased with him and he seems to be in good order,” said Comerford.
Ryan Moore, also making his first appearance at Aqueduct, will guide Mendelssohn out of the inside post.
The lucrative Cigar Mile card, which includes the Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen for 2-year-olds, the Grade 2, $250,000 Demoiselle for 2-year-old fillies, and the Grade 3, $250,000 Go For Wand Handicap for older fillies and mares, features a special first post of 11:30 a.m. with gates open to the public at 10:30 a.m.
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