Will Moore desert Guineas fancy Saxon Warrior to ride Mendelssohn in Kentucky?
Mendelssohn will go to America with a leading chance of winning the Kentucky Derby following his demolition job in the UAE Derby. But will Ryan Moore be aboard?
The 2018 Kentucky Derby falls on May 5, the same day as the Qipco 2,000 Guineas, posing a dilemma for Moore who would have a favourite's chance aboard the unbeaten Saxon Warrior.
Moore kept his counsel when asked at Meydan if he would be riding at Churchill Downs on May 5, saying: “The Kentucky Derby is a race on my bucket list but we’ll have to see what’s best to do closer to the time.”
When the decision comes to be made, Mendelssohn may well prove an irresistible proposition.
No European-based horse has ever won the Kentucky Derby, and Moore may never have a better chance of creating history than aboard the dirt-bred Mendelssohn who simply floated over the surface during his hugely impressive success at Meydan.
But it is not just the prospect of history which may influence Moore's decision. After riding Lines Of Battle to finish seventh in the 2013 Kentucky Derby – his first ride in the race – Moore was effusive in his praise of the event.
Speaking at the time, he said: "I can honestly say that the Kentucky Derby at the weekend was the best day's racing I have ever experienced; it was different class, on another level to what I have seen, or been involved in, anywhere else around the globe.
"They say that the Melbourne Cup is the race that stops a nation, and it's obviously a very big deal in Australia, but this was something else I can assure you. No comparison at all."
He added: "I have been lucky enough to ride in many top races around the globe but the sheer atmosphere and occasion around the Kentucky Derby was staggering. Every single person in the town was just consumed by the racing.
"Riding at the meeting – and it was the first time I have ridden in the race – was a real eye-opener, I can tell you. And I loved it."
Record of UAE Derby winners in Kentucky
2017 Thunder Snow (pulled up)
2016 Lani (ninth)
2015 Mubtaahij (eighth)
2013 Lines Of Battle (renamed Helene Super Star, seventh)
2012 Daddy Long Legs (pulled up)
2009 Regal Ransom (eighth)
2002 Essence Of Dubai (ninth)
2001 Express Tour (eighth)
2000 China Visit (sixth)
So is Mendelssohn the horse to break the European hoodoo? He would certainly have a better chance than the other five runners O'Brien has saddled.
Johannesburg, who famously won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, was sent off a shade bigger than 8-1 in the 2002 Kentucky Derby won by War Emblem, but while he was suited by the surface hindsight shows he failed to train on as a three-year-old and he finished only eighth.
O'Brien's other four runners – Master Of Hounds (fifth, 2011), Castle Gandolfo (12th, 2002), Daddy Long Legs (pulled up, 2012) and Lines Of Battle (seventh, 2013) – were sent off at significantly bigger prices and held claims nothing like as convincing as those possessed by Mendelssohn.
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