No horse from Europe has won the Kentucky Derby, but few have matched the globe-trotting credentials of Mendelssohn, the 5-1 second choice for America’s greatest race.
Mendelssohn stepped on to Churchill Downs on Thursday morning (Friday AEST) after two days in quarantine to ensure that he and three stablemates trained by Aidan O’Brien showed no signs of illness following their overseas flight.
“He just did a very gentle exercise around the track,” Pat Keating, O’Brien’s travelling assistant, said.
“We couldn’t be happier with him. We just wanted to get him out and stretch his legs. No problems. All good.”
And that could be bad news for the competition. Mendelssohn has already shown the ability to handle challenges around the globe.
After posting a modest 1-for-4 record to start his career in Europe, Mendelssohn headed to California in November to capture the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar.
Then it was back to Europe with the long-range goal of preparing for the Derby and the shift from turf to dirt. His first race this year was a victory over a synthetic surface in Ireland.
And then came a resounding triumph in the UAE Derby in Dubai in March when Mendelssohn romped in by 18 lengths to earn a trip to Kentucky, where he was bred.
Returning from the desert, Mendelssohn completed his Derby preparations at the famed Ballydolyle training centre in County Tipperary.
Now he’s back in the US sporting an impressive record supported by a powerful pedigree.
His sire was the late Scat Daddy, who has four sons in this year’s Derby. He is a half-brother to the retired mare Beholder, a four-time Eclipse Award winner.
The combination of good looks and golden bloodlines are the reason Mendelssohn brought a sales-topping $3 million at the 2016 Keeneland Yearling Sales from the trio of Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor.
“They looked so much alike, Mendelssohn and Beholder,” breeder Fred Mitchell said.
He will be ridden by Ryan Moore on Saturday (Sunday AEST).