The victory moved Triple Crown-nominated Mendelssohn into a tie for the lead in the European Road to the Kentucky Derby standings, but O'Brien said the plan is to point the 3-year-old Scat Daddy colt to Dubai rather than start in the final race of the European Road points series this month.
Should Mendelssohn race well in the UAE Derby Sponsored by the Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group (G2) March 31—part of the North American Road to the Kentucky Derby points series—O'Brien plans to send him to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1).
On Friday, Kentucky-bred Mendelssohn was the even-money favorite in the one-mile race on Polytrack that runs left-handed. Under Ryan Moore, Mendelssohn took position in third behind stablemates Threeandfourpence and Seahenge. Threeandfourpence led the way into the stretch and continued to press the winner to the finish even after being passed.
The final margin was three-quarters of a length. Seahenge also was prominent throughout and held well to finish third, another three lengths back.
The three top finishers all are Kentucky-bred. Seahenge also is by Scat Daddy, and Threeandfourpence is a son of War Front .
"It was nice to get Mendelssohn started, and he did everything right; he traveled and quickened well," O'Brien said. "He was a little bit rusty, obviously, on his first run in a long time, but Ryan was very happy with him. Physically, he has done very well, and mentally he is good. He is very relaxed, which is good."
"The plan was to come here, then go to Dubai, and then, hopefully, the Kentucky Derby," O'Brien said. "Hopefully, then we can look at Kentucky, but obviously we have to run a big race in Dubai and go on from there. But that is what we would be hoping to do. There is plenty of dirt in his pedigree, and as we saw, he is a good traveler and very good physically."
The 20 points earned by Mendelssohn put him in a tie with Gronkowski and Saxon Warrior in the European series, which offers one slot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. The only remaining race in the series is the Burradon conditions stakes at Newcastle March 30, worth 30 points to the winner
Gronkowski, a Kentucky-bred colt by Lonhro, will continue his quest for Louisville in the United States, according to trainer Jeremy Noseda. Saxon Warrior, a Deep Impact colt who earned 20 points last fall, is being pointed to the English and Irish Classics. With the three points leaders out of the picture, the winner of the Burradon would secure first chance at the European slot in the Kentucky Derby.
Mendelssohn started his career in Ireland and had never defeated winners when he arrived at Del Mar last fall after finishing second to stablemate U S Navy Flag in the Darley Dewhurst Stakes (G1) at Newmarket Oct. 14. Seahenge and Threeandfourpence finished third and fourth in that race.
O'Brien said the plan is to ship the top three Patton Stakes finishers to Dubai.
Bred by Clarkland Farm out of 2016 Broodmare of the Year Leslie's Lady, Mendelssohn sold for $3 million to M.V. Magnier at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale.