Aidan O’Brien’s UAE Derby winner Mendelssohn drew a sizable crowd on Friday morning as he prepared for Saturday’s US $2 million Kentucky Derby, as the Ballydoyle colt bids to become the first European-trained horse to win the ‘Run for the Roses.’
The son of Scat Daddy is the 5-1 second favourite for the 2,000m American classic behind the Bob Baffert-trained Justify, as Baffert aims to become the first trainer to win the Dubai World Cup-Kentucky Derby double.
Mendelssohn has been drawn in stall 14, the outside barrier of the main gate, for Saturday’s opening US Tripe Crown race of 2018. Stalls 15-20 outside of him will be part of an auxiliary gate, meaning there will be a three metre gap between Mendelssohn and the next horse in stall 15, Instilled Regard.
Mendelssohn is undefeated in two starts this season, having won the Listed Patton Stakes at Dundalk prior to easily winning the Group 2 UAE Derby on Dubai World Cup night. Interestingly, the three year old has won his last three races on three different types of surface.
Commenting on his participation in this year’s Kentucky Derby, his trainer Aidan O’Brien said:
“Coming up to last year’s Breeders’ Cup, when he was second in the (Group 1) Dewhurst (Stakes), ‘The Lads’ always thought that he could be a Kentucky Derby horse and we felt he had a chance of acting on the dirt, so we had a decision to make of whether we would stay on the grass with him or switch him to dirt.”
Describing the horse as having a big personality, the Co. Wexford-born trainer continued:
“We always try to encourage our horses to develop a personality, and he has developed a big one. Even though he’s vocal and cries out and calls to other horses, he’s not coltish and doesn’t draw or show. It’s more a mental thing than anything. As we were training him last year, when we put the blinkers on him, it totally focused his mind. It’s amazing how an inch on either side of his eye totally changes his focus. The minute you put those on, he totally focuses, so we don’t want to change him too much. He’s slowly growing up mentally and physically, so that’s where we are, really.
Mendelssohn was the most expensive yearling of his generation sold at auction in 2016 at US $3 million, courtesy of Keeneland’s September Sale in Kentucky.
The Kentucky Derby is at 11.50pm with live coverage on At The Races. Aidan O’Brien will also have some runners in the supporting races, with Threeandfourpence contesting the Grade 2 American Turf at 8.37pm, Seahenge runs in the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile at 9.38pm, and the well-travelled Deauville is drawn in stall one for the Grade 1 Old Forester Turf Classic at 10.25pm.