Mendelssohn masterplan building towards Breeders' Cup Classic bid
The Kentucky Derby may have been a chastening experience for Aidan O'Brien and Mendelssohn, but the trainer has not given up hope of the three-year-old landing one of America's top dirt races this season.
Having been identified as a major contender for the first leg of the US Triple Crown at the end of his two-year-old campaign, Mendelssohn found out how tough dirt racing can be when coming home last of 20 in the Grade 1, with O'Brien later commenting the race was a "different level of intensity".
Since that outing Mendelssohn has had two more American outings, progressing each time. He finished third in the Grade 3 Dwyer Stakes and was then runner-up to Catholic Boy in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes last month.
"It's interesting and exciting for us because it gives us a new angle," O'Brien said. "We have to learn more things and work out more things as we go along. The only way you can learn these things is to be in the middle of it and I think we're getting there slowly."
Next on the agenda could be the Belmont Jockey Club Gold Cup before a return to Churchill Downs for the Breeders' Cup.
"The Travers was the first run of a three-race programme," O'Brien added. "We were very happy with that and we're thinking of going to Belmont and then the Breeders' Cup Classic."
US Navy Flag to target Everest riches
Not content with trying to crack America, O'Brien is also taking on the Australian sprinting division in their own back yard, with US Navy Flag on course for a showdown against the best the home team can offer in the Everest.
Attempts at making the three-year-old a Group 1-winning miler this season did not pan out, but dropping back the son of War Front to six furlongs for the July Cup delivered an explosive response as he won the Newmarket Group 1 by a length and three-quarters.
With speed rather than stamina being US Navy Flag's chief asset, Randwick's A$13 million (£7.2m/€8m) sprint, which was staged for the first time last year, is next in the colt's crosshairs.
O'Brien carried off one of Australia's biggest prizes in 2014 when winning the Cox Plate with Adelaide, but the Everest represents a different summit to scale.
"US Navy Flag was at Naas on Tuesday evening and did a half-speed over six furlongs and we were very happy with him," O'Brien said on Wednesday.
"He's going into quarantine on Thursday to go to Sydney. He had a tough early part of the season and needed a break after the July Cup. This race popped in and we thought it could be worth trying."
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