Kentucky Derby

And Your 2018 Kentucky Derby Winner Is….European?

Mendelssohn crosses the wire first in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (Credit: Racing Dudes Photo)

That’s right.

This could finally be the year.

I know the horse racing community has thought this over and over through the years, but the parters of racing mega-owner Coolmore are determined to field a Kentucky Derby winner from Europe, and Mendelssohn seems to have the talent and bloodlines to be the one that breaks through.

In case you hadn’t heard, Mendelssohn is a brother to the champion mare Beholder, a strong second-place finisher in the 2013 Kentucky Oaks. Though he didn’t run well in his stakes debut prior to winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar, that actually bolsters the argument for a possible switch to dirt and, ultimately, victory in the Derby.

Europe’s racing turf is tremendously soft when compared to grass courses here in the United States, and even amongst its American counterparts, Del Mar is considered a very fast turf course, which Mendelssohn clearly enjoyed.

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After such a big win on turf, why would his connections switch to dirt? Many factors that go into this decision, but the biggest is the breeding component. Coolmore Stud is one of the world’s largest breeding operations, with large farms in Ireland, North America, and Australia, so adding their own colt to their already-sizeable roster (which includes American Pharoah) would be BIG for business. Europe’s breeding industry doesn’t have many dirt champions available, so adding Mendelssohn would offer an exciting new option that increases flexibility, which would allow Coolmore to capitalize on potential profits.

Though there’s never been a European-trained Kentucky Derby winner, the all-world connections of Coolmore, jockey Ryan Moore, and trainer Aidan O’Brien have won pretty much every other championship out there. This doesn’t get talked about enough, but to be the first owner, trainer, or jockey to win with a European horse is a lifetime crowning achievement, and if they could finally get the monkey off of their backs, it would be a big-time win.

Along with his breeding suggesting that a crossover to dirt should work, just look at the list of the horses that he beat at Del Mar – Catholic Boy, FlameawayMy Boy Jack, and Snapper Sinclair.

All of this adds up to major back-class for Mendelssohn and is another positive indication that he’s a legitimate contender.

One final note about the Kentucky Derby Trail in general: it’s very unpredictable. There are training issues, injuries, etc. that can derail even the best horses. We have already seen several bumps in the road for top horses such as Copper BulletBolt d’Oro and Mask, and thinking back to last year’s Kentucky Derby Trail, Classic Empire seemed to be the superior talent, but with training issues and small injuries along the way, he was never able to win a Triple Crown event.

Why does any of this affect us? The payout opportunity here could be gigantic! Given the fact that no European horse has ever won the Kentucky Derby, the odds are usually elevated to begin with. Add to that the recent memories of Lani and Thunder Snow (poor Thunder Snow!)

… and the odds on Mendelssohn have the chance to be very high (Future Wager Pool 2 currently has him at 44/1). Even just betting him to win could be a payday, and that’s not mentioning all of the exotics’ payouts when a bomb comes through on top!

When the nominations for the Group 1 UAE Derby were announced on February 6, Mendelssohn was listed as a potential starter for the March 31 event. The winner of the UAE Derby receives 100 points towards Kentucky Derby qualification, which all but guarantees a spot in the starting gate, but first, Mendelssohn is slated to make his first start of 2018 in one of two European Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races in early March.

I, for one, will have all fingers crossed that I get a chance to bet him at Churchill Downs on May 5.

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