2018 Kentucky Derby Contenders: Mendelssohn
Mendelssohn on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard
A Kentucky-bred colt that has done most of his running in Ireland and the UK, Mendelssohn took a circuitous route to the 2018 Kentucky Derby. In early March he picked up 20 qualifying points by winning the Patton Stakes in Dundalk, Ireland, and then shipped to Dubai, where just three weeks later he won the UAE Derby and claimed another 100 pts. However, since the Patton is part of the European qualifying series and the UAE Derby is not, the points can't be combined, so officially he's on the leaderboard with 100 points. He'll next run in the Derby on May 5.
Mendelssohn's Race Record
After a rough start to his career that saw him win once, but well-beaten two other times, Mendelssohn started to find his stride late in his two-year-old season. He made his Group 1 debut at Newmarket in mid-October and ran second at 50-1. He then shipped to Del Mar for the 2017 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf and won by a length at odds of 9-2, a race where he stalked the early pace and then started to move with 1/8 of a mile to go in the one-mile race. All of his first five races were on turf.
With an eye on getting to the Derby, he started the 2018 season by winning the Patton Stakes by 3/4 of a length on the synthetic track at Dundalk, also racing one mile. He then went to Dubai, where he got his first-ever start on dirt, and blew the field away, winning by 18 lengths in the 1 3/16-mile race.
Mendelssohn's sire is Scat Daddy, who won four graded-stakes races in his career, including the (G1) Florida Derby, before finishing 18th in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, after which he was retired. His grandsire is Johannesburg, who won five straight races on the turf to start his career in the UK, and then switched to dirt to win the 2001 Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He tried dirt a second time for the 2002 Kentucky Derby and finished eighth. Mendelssohn's dam is Leslie's Lady, who won five of 28 races lifetiime, including one minor stake at six furlongs.
Why Mendelssohn Can Win the Kentucky Derby
He's extremely versatile, having proven he can ship to the US and win, switch from turf to synthetic and win, and now switch again to dirt and win. Although, much like Audible, he doesn't have a lot of distance in his pedigree, the UAE Derby win at roughly 1 3/16 miles would indicate 1 1/4 miles at the Derby shouldn't be a problem. Even holding a huge lead, his time for the UAE was faster than Cloud Computing won the 2017 Preakness Stakes at the same distance.
And trainer Aiden O'Brien is one of the best in the world. He set a record in the UK and Ireland for Group 1 Stakes wins in a season this year, he has been aiming Mendelssohn to Kentucky for awhile, and with the Derby being one of the few major races in the world he hasn't won, he wouldn't bring a horse over unless he felt he had a legitimate shot at it.
Why Mendelssohn Can't Win the Kentucky Derby
While his 18-length UAE Derby win was visually impressive, the field was rather weak. The second-place finisher is a good filly (named Rayya, she'll likely run in the (G1) Kentucky Oaks), but she is a filly, racing against males for the very first time. The second choice in the betting was a colt that never came close to winning a Group-level race in the UK. His lack of dirt racing experience could still be a factor, especially if it comes up wet. And he's bucking a long trend of promising horses that have come out of the UAE Derby and then threw in a clunker at Churchill Downs.
Mendelssohn Betting Odds
Mendelssohn is a serious contender for the Derby win and should be considered in exacta and trifecta bets. Right now Bovada's future bets has him listed as the favorite at odds of 5-1, and he'll probably be right around that number come the Derby.
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