Jaw-dropping! US gives its verdict on Kentucky Derby heavyweight Mendelssohn
Mendelssohn’s demolition job in the Dubai desert on Saturday caused waves across the Atlantic Ocean as US turf enthusiasts acclaimed the Aidan O'Brien-trained colt as a genuine contender for the Kentucky Derby.
Domestic racing audiences often play down the chances of international raiders, but finding a voice to dismiss the claims of Mendelssohn in Kentucky on May 5 was an impossible task in the aftermath of his 18½ length victory, no matter how far you looked.
“Winners of the UAE Derby, an official Kentucky Derby points race, are seldom granted much respect when it comes to winning the Kentucky Derby,” wrote US writer Teresa Genaro for Forbes. “This year, that might change.
"The way Mendelssohn handled the dirt and his utter dominance will bring intrigue – and betting dollars – to this year's renewal of 'The Run for the Roses'.”
Saturday’s number one Kentucky Derby trial is traditionally the Florida Derby at Gulfstream, but it was the UAE version that produced a new favourite for Kentucky.
“Nothing could happen in Hallandale Beach that would trump the dazzling performance turned in by Mendelssohn in the UAE Derby,” wrote Bill Finley for the Thoroughbred Daily News.
“A jaw-dropping, you-had-to-see-it-to-believe-it victory by the $3 million Keeneland yearling buy, who is a half-brother to the great Beholder.”
No trainer based in Britain or Ireland has managed to crack the Kentucky Derby code, but having now proved himself on dirt and beyond a mile, Breeders’ Cup hero Mendelssohn looks well equipped.
“Even accounting for a track bias, the performance seemed exceptional,” wrote Marcus Hersh of the Daily Racing Form. “Reride, a decent if not elite American colt in his own right, was beaten more than 20 lengths.
“Is Mendelssohn good enough to run with the best American dirt horses? 'Yes' does not appear to be out of the question.”
Aidan O’Brien has run five horses in four Kentucky Derbies to date, the best finisher being Master Of Hounds, who managed fifth behind Animal Kingdom in 2011. Mendelssohn, it appears, is a different proposition altogether.
“What we didn’t know was whether or not he could handle the dirt,” added Finley. “After what he accomplished in Dubai, it’s not hard to conclude that what this horse wanted all along was the dirt. He is bred for it and he ran like a freak when trying it for the first time.
“That a UAE Derby winner could be a lower price in Kentucky than a Florida Derby winner once seemed inconceivable, but Mendelssohn was that good.”
Call him what you like, Mendelssohn's is the name on everyone's lips.
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