Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1T) winner Mendelssohn tops a trio entered by trainer Aidan O'Brien for the March 9 Patton Stakes at Dundalk in Ireland, the penultimate race in the European Road to the Kentucky Derby.
O'Brien has identified Mendelssohn as a candidate for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) since the Kentucky-bred Scat Daddy colt prevailed during his stateside debut Nov. 3 in the Breeders' Cup at Del Mar.
Expectations were high even before that victory, though, as Mendelssohn—a $3 million purchase from Clarkland Farm's consignment to the 2016 Keeneland September sale—is a half brother to four-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder and grade 1 winner and successful sire Into Mischief , out of the Tricky Creek mare Leslie's Lady.
The Patton, delayed because of the nasty weather that plagued the British Isles, is run at one mile on the Dundalk all-weather track and will be Mendelssohn's first trip on a surface other than turf. Ryan Moore will ride the colt, who drew the inside gate in a field of eight.
O'Brien's others—Seahenge and Threeandfourpence—also are Kentucky-breds who will be making their seasonal debuts.
Threeandfourpence, by War Front , won on his second try as a 2-year-old and ended his 2017 campaign finishing fourth in the Darley Dewhurst (G1) at Newmarket. He is owned by his breeder, Mrs. E.M. Stockwell, and Seamie Heffernan retains the mount.
Seahenge, like Mendelssohn, is owned by the Coolmore partners. The Scat Daddy colt is two-for-five and has not raced since finishing eighth, beaten 10 lengths, in the Racing Post Trophy Stakes (G1) at Doncaster Oct. 28. Donnacha O'Brien, the trainer's son, is named to ride.
Adding a bit of spice, another O'Brien son, former jockey Joseph O'Brien, saddles two of the other entrants. Ship of Dreams, a Lope De Vega colt owned by Qatar Racing, has raced twice, both over the Dundalk all-weather, and won his last effort by 2 3/4 lengths. Irish Minister, a Calumet Farm homebred son of Americain , remains a maiden after three tries on the same surface, but lost by only a neck in his most recent effort.
The Patton is the second of three all-weather races included in the Churchill Downs series designed to encourage European participation in the Run for the Roses. The race offers 20 points to the winner, with 8, 4, and 2 points for the minor placings. The leaderboard currently is topped by Saxon Warrior, who made his mark in the series' turf races late last year and is unlikely to chase the title, and Gronkowski, winner of the Road to the Kentucky Derby conditions stakes March 7 at Kempton Park. Each has 20 points.
The final race in the series, the Burradon Stakes at Newcastle March 30, awards points on a scale of 30-12-6-3.
Mendelssohn, Seahenge, and Threeandfourpence all are nominated to the U.S. Triple Crown series and to the UAE Derby Sponsored by the Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group (G2) March 31 in Dubai. The latter race is part of the North American Road to the Kentucky Derby series and awards points on the 100-40-20-10 schedule of the major U.S. prep races.