Archive for the ‘Kentucky Derby’ Category

A bad start ended Mendelssohn’s chance to be the first European-based horse to win the Kentucky Derby

May 6, 2018

There was a big build-up before the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby as to whether Mendelssohn, based in Ireland, would be the first European-trained horse to win the “Race for the Roses.” Mendelssohn, trained by Aidan O’Brien and ridden by jockey Ryan Moore, was among the favorites to win at Churchill Downs based upon his spectacular 18-1/2 length win at the 1,900 meter (approximately 9.5 furlongs) UAE Derby at Dubai in March — a Grade 2, $2.5 million race, which was Mendelssohn’s first try on dirt.

The closest a European-based horse had come to winning the Kentucky Derby was in 1986 when an English horse, Bold Arrangement, finished second to Ferdinand. “There have been 36 overseas attempts without success since then including Arazi who was eighth as a 4-5 favourite in 1992,” wrote Brian O’Connor in The Irish Times.

Danny Weld, the only trainer based in Europe to ever win an American Classic, predicted that Mendelssohn had a “wonderful chance” to win the Kentucky Derby. (Weld trained Go and Go, which won the 1990 Belmont Stakes.)

“It’s a pretty big call but this is quite doable and I believe he has a great chance to win,” Weld said. “I think he’s Aidan’s best chance of winning the Kentucky Derby and wouldn’t it be great to see it.”

“Even by Aidan O’Brien’s record-breaking standards victor for Mendelssohn . . . would represent a landmark in racing history,” wrote Brian O’Connor in The Irish Times.

A terrible start ended Mendelssohn’s chances. He was bumped out of the gate and was unable to recover in driving rain on a sloppy track. The bad result resulted in a last-place finish in the 20-horse field.

“He just got knocked over coming out of the gate and then got knocked over going in the first bend,” O’Brien said.

“He [was] beat up out of the gate, proceeded to check on the first turn and was never in a good place,” Moore said.  “The race was over for him then.”

“Ryan Moore was slow to stride from stall 14 aboard Mendelssohn and appeared to take a bump as his jockey went inside to try to find a position that gave him a chance to travel and attack,” wrote Greg Wood in The Guardian.  “He ended up buried in the midfield, however, and while Moore did his best to work his way towards the leaders, he accepted three furlongs from home that it was not going to be his day. . . . [A] combination of the torrential rain and his slow start meant he never got a chance to show what he could do.”

Mendelssohn “got slammed badly at the start and ended up at the back of the pack,” wrote Steve Silverman in Bleacher Report. “He was never able to recover.”

Mendelssohn was the second choice behind Justify (5-2 favorite and a half-brother of Mendelssohn), which won 53-1/4 lengths ahead of Mendelssohn’s last place finish. Justify, trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by 52-year-old jockey Mike Smith, became the first horse since 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby without racing as a two-year-old. (Apollo did it 136 years ago.)  Justify finished 2-1/2 lengths ahead of Good Magic in the 1-1/4 mile race. Audible was a close third.

Smith is the second oldest jockey to win the Kentucky Derby.  Jockey Bill Shoemaker won in 1986 on Ferdinand at age 54.

“Mendelssohn eased to the wire and walked off, 23-3/4 lengths behind Magnum Moon, which finished next to last after entering as another highly regarded contender,” the Associated Press reported.

Mendelssohn, a bay colt, was bred in Kentucky.  His sire was the late Scat Daddy (out of Johannesburg) and he is a half-brother of the retired Beholder, a four-time Eclipse Award winner, and Into Mischief, a multiple graded stakes winner.

Mendelssohn and Beholder “looked so much alike” said Clarkland Farm’s Fred Mitchell, who bred them both.

Mendelssohn was purchased for $3 million at the 2016 Keeneland Yearling Sale by Derrick Smith, Susan Magnier and Michael Tabor. Mendelssohn posted a modest 1-for-4 record to start his career in Europe but in November 2017 he won on grass at the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar, CA. Going into the Kentucky Derby, Mendelssohn was 4-1-0 in seven starts with earnings of more than $1.9 million. Mendelssohn was one of four nominees in 2017 for the title of Champion Two-Year-Old Colt but lost out to U S Navy Flag, who was trained by O’Brien and also owned by Smith, Magnier and Tabor.

 

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