Winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, Coolmore's Mendelssohn is on track to bring trainer Aidan O'Brien back to the Kentucky Derby. The record-setting Ballydoyle conditioner has never finished better than fifth in the Run for the Roses, according to sportinglife.com.
“You are going over to the other side of the world and getting pitched into a different culture of racing totally. It's a different surface and different everything,” O'Brien said. “It's brilliant that we've had the trial for it this year in Ireland. Those kind of things make everything possible for us here in Ireland, being able to get started on the way.”
Mendelssohn made his first start of 2018 in the Patton Stakes at Dundalk over the synthetic, winning relatively easily. Now, the colt is headed to Dubai for the UAE Derby and his first start on the dirt.
“We're not guaranteed for sure that he will get a mile and a quarter, but we're going to find out a lot more in Dubai,” O'Brien continued. “Ryan (Moore) was very happy with him in Dundalk. He travelled well and went there, but he doesn't do a lot when he gets to the front. He's a brother to Beholder. Scat Daddy is obviously an influence for speed, but American racing is very different and the most important thing of all is speed. You just hope for stamina after that, but if you don't have pace it's a waste of time.”
While much of the focus is rightfully on the two budding possible superstars in Godolphin's Charlie Appleby-trained Gold Town and Coolmore's Aidan O'Brien-conditioned Mendelssohn, the two colts will have to clash with a talented Group 3 stakes winner over the course and distance who seems to be peaking at the right time – who also happens to be female. On a day when fillies will likely hold their own on more than one possible occasion – namely Forever Unbridled in the Dubai World Cup, Vivlos in the Dubai Turf and Rosa Imperial in the Al Quoz Sprint – Doug Watson-trained Rayya deserves just as much respect in her March 31st test, the Group 2 $2 million UAE Derby sponsored by Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group.
Over 1900m, or about 1 3/16 miles, it is common for 3-year-olds to have not tried a trip so far – but Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid al Nuaimi's chestnut daughter of Tiz Wonderful did just that, and with aplomb in the UAE Oaks (G3). Going gate-to-wire under jockey Pat Dobbs, the half-sister to Curlin Road dominated in the final straight, hinting at the same stamina that saw said half-sibling annex the Cougar II (G3) over 2400m on dirt last summer at Del Mar.
“She's doing super,” Watson said. “She had a nice piece of work (on March 18th) and she's in really good shape. The four weeks after racing every three weeks will definitely be helpful. It's nice to have that 30 days and she's handled it well, having come out great. She's just going to do a couple pieces of work and go over there with a good chance.
“I know Gold Town is a good horse and Aidan's horse I don't know much about, but hopefully we can get the trip and have home field advantage in our favour and we know she can get the distance,” he continued. “Hopefully the race doesn't draw but eight or nine horses and we can have a clean trip. She can sit off the pace if Gold Town goes, like she did in her maiden win, or she can go forward. She'll get into that great rhythm and stride she has; that excellent cruising speed.”
Sold for $190,000 at OBS April 2017, Rayya has four starts with two wins and two seconds. After breaking her maiden over 1400m, she returned to finish second in both the 1400m UAE 1000 Guineas Trial and 1600m UAE 1000 Guineas (Listed) before winning the UAE Oaks by open lengths. Watson indicated that a run in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks in May could be in the cards if Rayya runs well in the UAE Derby.
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