All has gone well with him since his win in Dubai – he’s ready and we’re looking forward to what will be a big challenge.
A European-trained horse has never won the Kentucky Derby – but then again, not since Arazi in 1992 has one arrived with such fanfare beneath the iconic Twin Spires for America’s greatest race.
Arazi, though, finished a dismal eighth. Can Mendelssohn succeed where the French superstar flattered to deceive?
For all that the son of Scat Daddy looked a world-beater when finally being switched to dirt in Dubai, let no one be in any doubt about the magnitude of the task ahead.
Make no mistake: even allowing for the formidable achievements of Aidan O’Brien and Ryan Moore – in Kentucky rather than partnering one of the Ballydoyle 2,000 Guineas horses at Newmarket – victory for Mendelssohn in the $2.2 million event might top the lot.
History, though, tells its own tale. Despite the combined might of Coolmore and Godolphin having taken a few shots in the last couple of decades, Bold Arrangement’s magnificent second to Ferdinand in 1986 for the pioneering Clive Brittain remains the best ever placing achieved by a transatlantic visitor.
Few, though, have landed in Louisville with credentials akin to Mendelssohn. A $3 million yearling, Mendelssohn’s pedigree screams ‘dirt’, and he has been targeted for the ‘Run for the Roses’ ever since he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar last year – a performance that amply demonstrated his ability to travel and run on Lasix.
Note, too, he had no fewer than three 2,000 Guineas contenders behind him at Del Mar, including Craven and Greenham winners Masar and James Garfield.
A reappearance Listed victory at Dundalk blew away the cobwebs before he was finally switched to dirt with that spectacular 18-length victory in the UAE Derby.
Taken at face value, that was virtually off the charts in handicapping terms – but can anything on the idiosyncratic Meydan dirt surface really be trusted?
What is more, Mendelssohn faces what is said to be the hottest Derby fields in years, his status among the locals being not far off a ‘mystery horse’ against at least one more potential superstar in Justify.
Although O’Brien is painfully aware of the alien nature of the assignment – remember, his champion two-year-old Johannesburg was only eighth here in 2002 after winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile the previous year – he seems happy enough with Mendelssohn’s progress.
“He travelled over well and Pat Keating [travelling head lad] and the lads who went with him have been very happy with him since he got there,” he said. “He’s cantered on the track and is in good form.
“He’s a very special-looking horse physically and, with his pedigree, he came to us as a top-rated horse. Usually those horses, if things go right, they have a big shot.”
Article courtesy of Racing Post.