Winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf last fall, Coolmore's Mendelssohn added to his record on Saturday with a dominating victory in the Group 2 UAE Derby in his first start on a dirt course. The 3-year-old son of Scat Daddy left the starting gates on top and never relinquished his lead, crossing the wire a stunning 18 1/2 lengths in front of the filly Rayya, while American entrant Reride finished third. Trained by Aidan O'Brien and ridden by Ryan Moore, the half-brother to Beholder and Into Mischief set a new track record for the 1 3/16-mile course over the Meydan oval, completing the task in 1:55.18.
The win earns Mendelssohn 100 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, and O'Brien has long wanted to add the Roses to his training resume. Mendelssohn, a $3 million yearling at the Keeneland September sale, looks to be headed to Louisville for his record-setting connections.
“We are over the moon,” said trainer Aidan O'Brien, who won the UAE Derby for the third time.
“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.
“He is naturally quick and has a lot of tactical early speed. He did it the hard way but he did it so easily. He is very well bred, he has a great physique and you can see why he cost the lads a lot of money at the sales. We will look forward to going to Kentucky with him now. He is a terrific horse, really very exciting. “
Since Mendelssohn had never started on the dirt, and the Meydan surface has a reputation for producing a lot of kickback, Moore made the early decision to send his colt for the lead early in the UAE Derby. The pair were immediately challenged by the filly Rayya at the rail, but repelled her only to be challenged again on the outside by Japanese contender Yulong Warrior. By the time Mendelssohn reached the backstretch, though, he had managed to carve out a one-length lead over the field.
Rayya and Yulong Warrior continued to duel it out in second, but Mendelssohn was in cruise control on the lead all the way through the three-eighths pole. When Moore slipped the reins to him, Mendelssohn responded eagerly, drawing away from his rivals with total ease to turn for home about six lengths in front. Down the stretch, there was never any question as Mendelssohn flew toward the wire all alone, crossing it 18 1/2 lengths better than the field. Rayya held on to second over the late-running Reride, while local Gold Town wrapped up the superfecta.
Jockey Ryan Moore, who won his second UAE Derby, was equally impressed, saying: “He's a high-class horse, a Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner, and now he's done it here. You'd have to go a long way to see a better performance than that. He's a horse with a lot of speed, he still feels like there's more physical improvement in him, there's more strengthening to come, he's going to get better. He's grown up a lot, but he's still learning and he's trained by a genius.”
Asked about the Kentucky Derby, Moore said: “He's got a beautiful pedigree, he's got the form, he races forward and there's plenty of experience now. But that's a different thing, a hard race with more runners, you can't compare it to today.”
Bred in Kentucky by Clarkland Farm, Mendelssohn is out of 2016 Broodmare of the Year Leslie's Lady, by Tricky Creek. The half-brother to both Breeders' Cup champion Beholder and top young sire Into Mischief, Mendelssohn was a $3 million purchase at the Keeneland September sale. Owned by the Coolmore Partners, the colt broke his maiden in his second start, then finished off the board in a Group 2 at Doncaster. Next out, he was second in the Group 1 Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket, and then came to Southern California and captured the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
O'Brien sent Mendelssohn to the 32red Patton Stakes over the synthetic to kick off his 2018 season, which the colt won confidently, and he now has three victories in a row approaching a likely tilt at the Kentucky Derby. His overall earnings are approaching $1.9 million.
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