DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – Trainer Aidan O’Brien’s Mendelssohn squashed all detractors on Saturday, shattering the previous track record and storming away with a scintillating performance in the Group 2, $2,000,000 UAE Derby Sponsored by Al Tayer Motors at Meydan Racecourse.
Ridden hard immediately after breaking from post 4 under Ryan Moore, Mendelssohn was able to head into the first turn with a share of the lead alongside the field’s lone filly, Rayya. Soon after turning, Rayya dropped back enough to allow Mendelssohn to cross over to the rail while Yulong Warrior raced to his outside. Mendelssohn eventually put a length on the field as they raced down the backside, a lead he steadily increased as the race wore on. Hitting the top of the stretch with over a 6-length gap, Moore kept his colt to task, and the Aidan O’Brien trainee hit the wire first by a country mile in a track-record time of 1:55.19 for the 9 1/2-furlong event. It was Mendelssohn’s first career start on a dirt surface.
“He’s been very good,” O’Brien said. “We knew that he had a lot of dirt in his pedigree, so we knew that he had a chance. He’s a horse that has a lot of speed. We weren’t sure how far the speed would carry him. He’s naturally quick, tactically.”
Rayya stayed on stronger than her remaining foes, taking second ahead of the American colt Reride, while the 6-5 favorite and local hero Gold Town tired in the stretch after chasing the winner and faded to fourth. Seahenge, one of Mendelssohn’s two stablemates in the race, crossed in fifth ahead of Taiki Ferveur. Yulong Warrior, Ruggero, and Threeandfourpence (the third O’Brien starter) completed the order of finish.
The UAE Derby is part of the Road to the 2018 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Mendelssohn earned 100 points for the win, with Rayya receiving 40 for second, Reride 20 for third, and Gold Town 10 for fourth.
Mendelssohn’s victory has his connections pointing him squarely back to Kentucky, the state where he became a $3 million yearling purchase by the Coolmore partners Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier, and Michael Tabor. He will be O’Brien’s sixth career horse to Run for the Roses, a race in which he’s never finished better than fifth (Master of Hounds in 2011).
“Obviously, he’s a very good horse, and the lads paid a lot of money for him,” O’Brien said. “He’s very a well-bred horse from America with a great physique. He won nicely in Dundalk (last out over the synthetic surface), so I couldn’t be happier.”
Mendelssohn returned $5.60 to win, $4 to place, and $2.40 to show. Rayya brought back $11.20 to place and $4.60 to show, while Reride paid $3.80 to show.