In 2011, a horse called Master of Hounds ran in the UAE Derby and was just beaten by Khawlah. Later that year the colt went on to Churchill Downs in May and finished an excellent fifth in the ‘Run for the Roses’. That horse was trained by Aidan O’Brien.
This year, that same trainer, Ireland’s record-breaking handler, sends Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf winner at Del Mar, Mendelssohn, Threeandfourpence and Seahenge to Meydan for the US $2 million UAE Derby, hoping to claim the large purse on their way to greater things in the 2018 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in early May.
All three horses warmed up at Dundalk three weeks ago when the half-brother to multiple American champion mare Beholder and Keeneland September Yearling Sale topper at $3 million, Mendelssohn, led home his stable companions.
“Mendelssohn continues to improve and we hope he can run a big race. He did very well over the winter and mentally he is very relaxed. He is American-bred so we hope the dirt will suit him” his trainer said.
“He is quite a strong traveller so we will learn more about him at Meydan in terms of the Kentucky Derby. You couldn’t be sure how well he will stay as he goes beyond a mile for the first time but we are hopeful he will get the trip.”
It is worth pointing out that O’Brien’s previous runners in the UAE Derby have gone into the race without a prep run, but the Patton Stakes at Dundalk presented itself this year as a suitable option given its new position on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
“The thinking is that having a run into our horses before the UAE Derby won’t be a disadvantage. We are very happy with how our horses are going into the race,” O’Brien added.
Mendelssohn is drawn in stall four and jockey Ryan Moore is likely to try and stay just behind the lead, which is likely to be set by the other two Ballydoyle runners. The Scat Daddy colt arrived in Dubai on Tuesday morning. Following some work on the dirt track on Friday, his trainer stated: “Mendelssohn was out there shouting (whinnying) on the track this morning. It is just a little bit of immaturity, even though he has developed well over the winter. He was a bit like that in America and he won the Breeders’ Cup so it’s nothing to worry about.”
According to O’Brien everything has gone to plan for his three runners in the UAE Derby, and he admits the intention is for all three horses to be to the fore early on:
“All three for the Derby are in great form and their preparation has gone very well. Threeandfourpence and Seahenge will like going up in trip, we feel. As for tactics, the intention of all three will be to jump and go forward. If any one of them gets to the front that’s great and if they are handy, they are handy. It seems it is best being forward on the surface. Maybe they won’t be able to lead, but they will work it out as they go.”
The Irish champion flat trainer has won the UAE Derby twice, with Daddy Long Legs in 2012 and the following year with Lines Of Battle.
In the Group 1 Sheema Classic over 1 and a half miles, Ryan Moore will take the mount on Idaho as he aims to give O’Brien his second win in the turf event following St Nicholas Abbey’s win under Joseph O’Brien in 2013.
Commenting on Idaho, a full-brother to the now retired globetrotter Highland Reel, his handler said:
“We think and we hope there could be a big race in him this year. He placed in an Epsom and Irish Derby as a 3-year-old and he won the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot last year so he is the makings of a Group 1 winner. “He travelled over well which is probably the most important thing with him. His run in the Japan Cup was a cracker from a wide draw and he has gate two here. We’re thinking he has a good chance of being in the frame.”
Lancaster Bomber (Ryan Moore) and War Decree (Séamie Heffernan) will represent the O’Brien team in the Dubai Turf, formerly known as the Dubai Duty Free, over 1 mile and 1 furlong. When asked about his runners in this $5 million race, the Co. Wexford-born trainer stated:
“Lancaster Bomber is a very solid horse. He gets a mile well but I’m not sure if he gets a mile and a quarter so this trip is somewhere in between. The fast ground will be to his liking. He has gone the right way from three to four and the lads seem happy with him since he travelled.
“We were delighted War Decree got in. Deauville had his slot but he developed a little bit of a temperature so War Decree got his invite. He worked very well on the Polytrack at Dundalk a few weeks ago. He is in good form and we are very happy with him.”
When discussing his runner in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint, Washington DC, O’Brien said:
“He is in great shape. He likes a fast pace to run at on fast ground and we will ride him for a bit of luck. He has Group 1 form and we think he has progressed since last year. We think he could surprise a few people and run a big race.”
There will be live TV coverage of the Group 1 races on 3e on Saturday afternoon, with both At The Races and Racing UK covering all races on the Meydan card.