Friday 20 July 2018

Kentucky odds against Mendelssohn

Mendelssohn with Dean Gallagher on track preparing for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 3, 2018 in Louisville, Kentucky. Photo: Getty Images
Mendelssohn with Dean Gallagher on track preparing for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 3, 2018 in Louisville, Kentucky. Photo: Getty Images

Michael Verney

Aidan O'Brien has made a mockery of the record books throughout his all-conquering training career but should Mendelssohn rip up the script in tomorrow night's Kentucky Derby, it would be the sweetest victory of all.

After breaking new ground with 28 Group One triumphs last term, the Ballydoyle maestro set his sights on doing something which no European trainer has ever achieved by claiming the famous 'Run for the Roses'.

British trainer Clive Brittain came closest through Bold Arrangement when second in 1986 and 36 have tried since without success, including O'Brien's Master Of Hounds (fifth in 2011) and Lines Of Battle (seventh a year later).

That was Ryan Moore's sole ride in the first leg of the American Triple Crown and his decision to sidestep Newmarket's Guineas meeting says a lot about the intentions of all involved.

Mendelssohn produced a stunning display to turn the UAE Derby into a procession when cruising home by 18-and-a-half lengths on his last run but even this statistic goes against the three-year-old son of Scat Daddy.

Of the 13 previous horses which ran in Kentucky on the back of the trip to Meydan, the best finishing position is fifth while it's 47 years since a Kentucky Derby winner had his previous race away from US soil when Canonero ventured to Venezuela in 1971.

Despite vying for favouritism at around 7/2, the odds are against a Mendelssohn victory when he lines up at Churchill Downs just before midnight (11.50) and his cause wasn't aided by a 125-mile diversion to Indianapolis en route to Louisville after an issue with travel documents.

O'Brien reported his charge none the worse for the ordeal, however, but even the $2million winner's purse (€1.67 million) is of little interest to Coolmore connections. What really matters is history and breaking from stall 14 of 20 makes it a tad tougher.

Despite the many obstacles, he is a formidable contender - in what would be a bad result for the bookmaking fraternity - but the talent pool will be a lot deeper than what last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner has encountered in his career to date.

One of the main opposition also has to overcome similar statistics with Bob Baffert's Justify (drawn seven) bidding to reverse an ancient trend of being the first winner not to race as a two-year-old since Apollo 136 years ago.

Writing in his Betfair blog, Moore said of Mendelssohn: "His speed figures from Dubai put him right up there with the best in this race. Of course it is a big ask for my colt, though he may just be up to the challenge."

O'Brien also saddles current favourites in the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas (Happily and Gustav Klimt) some 6,500km away at Newmarket this weekend while Mendelssohn is not the only visitor to Kentucky.

Stable-mates Threeandfourpence (American Turf Stakes at 8.37), Seahenge (Pat Day Mile Stakes at 9.28) and Deauville (Old Forester Turf Classic Stakes at 10.25) all take their chance on what could be another historic weekend for O'Brien.

Irish Independent

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