Kentucky Derby Contender Profile: Mendelssohn

MendelssohnBest Brisnet Speed Figure: 105 estimated (UAE Derby).

COMMENTS: After an 18 ½-length win in the UAE Derby on March 31, Mendelssohn has become the “now” horse for the 2018 Kentucky Derby. My US Racing colleague Noel Michaels was so impressed he called the son of Scat Daddy a “monster” and proclaimed him “the horse to beat at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 5.”

Micahels noted that last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf has turned out to be a huge key race, with Catholic Boy, My Boy Jack and Flameaway all subsequently winning graded Kentucky Derby preps — on the dirt — and Snapper Sinclair finishing second in the Grade II Risen Star, also on dirt.

Then, of course, there’s Mendelssohn, who won the BC Juvenile Turf as the 9-2 favorite. He followed that up with a minor stakes score in Ireland over an all-weather surface before his virtuoso performance in the UAE Derby.

And while Meydan Racecourse was clearly on the glib side on the night of March 31 — three track records were set on the dirt, one on the turf — it should be noted that Mendelssohn bested Thunder Snow’s time in last year’s UAE Derby by over 2.5 seconds. Mind Your Biscuits, who captured the Dubai Golden Shaheen for the second year in a row, improved his time by just 0.789 seconds this year, while Thunder Snow topped Arrogate’s time in the Dubai World Cup by 0.774 seconds.

On the negative side, perhaps, is Mendelssohn’s trainer — Aidan O’Brien. On the surface, I know that sounds absurd. O’Brien is one of the most successful conditioners in the history of the game. In 2017, he set a new world record by training 28 Group or Grade 1 winners in one calendar year. Yet, for all his success, O’Brien is 0-for-5 in the Kentucky Derby and 2-for-44 in Breeders’ Cup dirt races since 1997 (0.53 impact value, 0.48 odds-based impact value).

There’s also the inconvenient fact that four of the six dirt races on World Cup Night were won in wire-to-wire fashion — and that includes the UAE Derby. Worse, Mendelssohn earned a 0 early speed ration in the race; horses that recorded a 0 ESR or greater in their final prep are 6-for-182 in the Run for the Roses since 1992 (0.61 IV, 0.54 OBIV).


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