Mendelssohn Odds to Win the 2018 Kentucky Derby with Picks and Predictions
Since 2013, the UAE Derby, run on the Dubai World Cup undercard in late March, has been a Kentucky Derby points race. The winner gets enough points to make the Derby field, and the runner-up does as well. Despite that ticket to the big time, and the incredible wealth owners have in Dubai, we have yet to see a horse from the race really threaten in Louisville. Last year's winner Thunder Snow was arguably the best horse that has come over, but he quit running right out of the gate. It has been a good practice for bettors to be skeptical about horses coming out of this race. But Mendelssohn could be different. He's a beautifully-bred horse who is coming off a truly dominant win, and bettors are going to give him much more credit than any other UAE Derby winner has had. Expectations will be high. But can he live up to them?
Last race: You can't win a race much easier than Mendelssohn won his last one in the UAE Derby. He was with the front group throughout and then started to pull away with a third of the race left. He didn't obviously shift into a higher gear, but it was clear he was asserting his big class advantage. With each stride he was widening his advantage until he was ahead by more than 18 lengths at the wire. Despite the incredible result, it never looked like he was particularly taxed. It was a great effort. Now, it's worth noting that the field was not particularly deep behind Mendelssohn, and he'll be taking a huge step up in class in the Derby. But he certainly showed that he is ready for a fight in that race.
Prior experience: The Derby will not be the first time this world traveler has raced in the U.S. - which is also the country he was bred in. After making four starts on turf in Britain last summer and fall, winning one of them, he headed to California to run in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar. And run he did - he won by a length and looked like he was only getting warmed up as he crossed the line. It was back to Ireland after that. After a four-month rest, he shifted from the grass to a synthetic surface, and he kept up his winning ways. That was a Derby points race in the pursuit of the European spot that Gronkowski ultimately took. Instead of sticking around to win that spot, though, he headed to Dubai for the big purse and the chance to try dirt. Needless to say, he liked it.
Trainer: Aidan O'Brien is one of Britain's top trainers. He is the private trainer for the incredibly wealthy and powerful Ballydoyle Stables, so he has never lacked for top horse flesh, and he knows how to handle it. In 2017 he set a world record with 26 Group of Grade 1 wins in a single year. He hasn't spent a lot of time racing in the U.S., but he's not a stranger by any means - he has won 12 Breeders' Cup races since 2001. That first Breeders' Cup winner was also his prior Kentucky Derby experience - Johannesburg won the 2001 Juvenile and was two-year-old champion in the U.S. and in Europe, but he finished only eighth in the 2002 Derby. Interestingly, Johannesburg sired Florida Derby winner Scat Daddy, who is the sire of Mendelssohn.
Jockey: Ryan Moore has ridden the horse to his success, so presumably he will come over for this race, though as I write that hasn't been confirmed. Moore is the first call jockey for O'Brien, so you know he is good. He has been Britain's champion jockey three times. He hasn't spent a ton of time racing on this side of the pond, but he does have 12 graded stakes wins in the U.S., including nine in the Breeders' Cup. All 12 wins have been on the turf, though, so his American dirt experience is limited. That's a concern but not a dramatic one given his clear talent.
Breeding: This is a very-nicely-bred horse. His sire is Scat Daddy, who is very well represented in the Derby this year - he also sired likely favorite Justify, intriguing longer shot Flameaway, and current first alternate Combatant. Scat Daddy died at just 11 years old, so this is not just his best crop by a wide margin but also his last one. We don't often talk about the dams in this spot, but Mendelssohn's dam is worth the time. Leslie's Lady previously foaled Beholder, the four-time champion and three-time Breeders' Cup winner who is one of the true greats of her generation. That's a pretty impressive half-sister to have. There is no need to worry about the breeding here.
Odds: At +525 to win the Kentucky Derby at BetOnline , Mendelssohn is the second choice to win the race, though well behind the other Scat Daddy son, Justify, at +225.
Can Mendelssohn Win the 2018 Kentucky Derby?: Yes. He is bred well, and his last race was incredibly impressive. There are concerns - UAE Derby winners have not done well in Kentucky, the horse won't be traveling to Kentucky until late, and his connections are not Derby veterans. But there is class here, and he will be a factor.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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