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Mendelssohn’s stunning 18-length success in the Grade 2 UAE Derby at Meydan on Saturday has the world of horse racing buzzing. Could legendary Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien actually have the horse to beat the Americans in their own backyard and win the fabled Kentucky Derby (pictured above) at Churchill Downs on May 5?
We were very keen to highlight the chance of Mendelssohn (recommended 5/2, SP 7/4) in our free racing tips for Dubai World Cup day, and from the moment jockey Ryan Moore pushed the accelerator leaving the back straight at Meydan victory was never in doubt. Compared to the other high-class races at the track that evening, the son of Scat Daddy’s time was exceptional. Even the American’s are now wondering if their iconic national race – a race run on dirt, a surface alien to European horses – might for the first time head to a European-based raider.
“I’m usually dismissive of the UAE Derby winner since the competition is often substandard, but Mendelssohn already had proven at age 2 that he was a high-class colt,” wrote Jay Privman of the US racing bible, Daily Racing Form, “and his win here … stamps him as a legitimate win candidate five weeks hence, especially when considering he’s trained by arguably the best trainer in the world and ridden by arguably the best jockey in the world. These are top-class connections.”
Mendelssohn certainly does look special, and the word is that the O’Brien team really believe they have a chance of going one better than Clive Brittain’s Bold Arrangement, who ran his heart out when a fine second in the 1986 Kentucky Derby behind the superb Ferdinand. Remember, the Ballydoyle colt has already beaten the Americans on their home soil in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last November.
Now a top-priced 6/1 ante-post favourite (with Bet365) for the Kentucky Derby – he was 25/1 before his UAE Derby romp – our advice is to sit tight and wait. There are plenty of key US trials for the big race in the coming weeks and the winners will surely shorten up, meaning Mendelssohn may drift to more attractive odds.
It remains a massive challenge for any non-American horse to win the Kentucky Derby, a challenge that should never be underestimated, but if there is a horse to pull off such a feat, it could well be Mendelssohn.
Written by Paul Alster
Paul Alster has been part of the British and international racing media for more than three decades working as a race commentator, TV/radio presenter, journalist, betting correspondent, SP returner, and form analyst. He’s always sought out overpriced runners in handicap races, a quest that excites him as much now as it did at the start of his career.