It's the perfect storm.
The son of the successful late stallion Scat Daddy was one of the best-looking individuals entered in the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale.
The colt was purchased for a sale-topping $3 million on behalf of a trio of partners associated with Coolmore Stud, which owns Ashford Stud where Scat Daddy stood until he died prematurely in December 2015.
Now, 1 1/2 years later the colt named Mendelssohn will head to Churchill Downs as one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) after blowing away an international cast of 3-year-olds in the UAE Derby Sponsored by Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group (G2) March 31 at Meydan Racecourse.
In his first start on dirt and at a distance beyond a mile, the colt trained by Aidan O'Brien for Derrick Smith, Susan Magnier, and Michael Tabor rolled to an 18 1/2-length victory in track-record time, earning 100 qualifying points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby points race and ensuring him a spot in the Churchill starting gate.
The UAE Derby winner was bred in Kentucky by Clarkland Farm, which is owned and run by Fred and Nancy Mitchell and Nancy's daughter Marty Buckner.
Expectations were high for Mendelssohn when Clarkland offered him at Keeneland, not only because of his outstanding looks, but his blue-blood pedigree that screamed stallion prospect were he to race and succeed in graded stakes company.
As the protracted bidding war dragged on, the colt stood in the sale ring with aplomb, undeterred by the commotion he created before being knocked down to M.V. Magnier for $3 million, which at the time was the sale's highest price in six years.
With his latest triumph, Mendelssohn has won four of seven starts and earned more than $1.9 million.
"It's a dream come true," Fred Mitchell said two days after the UAE Derby. "He was the top-dollar yearling, and he's turned out to be a bargain for the people who bought him. It's hard to tell how much he's worth. If he gets to stand in the U.S. at stud—and all indications are he will—when the breeders go look at him ... he's a breeder's dream.
"I don't think I ever saw a yearling in the sales ring stand as long as he did," Mitchell recalled the day Mendelssohn sold. "He just stood there and took it all in."
Mendelssohn also has shown he has the ability to handle international travel. After being sent from O'Brien's Ireland base to Del Mar in Southern California to win the 2017 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1T), he then returned to Ireland, where he then won a March 9 race on a synthetic track before shipping to Dubai for Saturday's triumph.
Mitchell said if you like what you see in Mendelssohn, there will likely be an opportunity to buy his half brother, a colt by Darley's top stallion Medaglia d'Oro , at this year's Keeneland September sale. The Mitchells plan to sell any colts produced from Leslie's Lady and would probably retain any fillies the mare produces in the future.
"This colt (Mendelssohn) is special and the yearling (foaled April 4, 2017) out of the mare is special," Mitchell said. "The (yearling) has a disposition that's out of this world. He's a big, long, gangly colt. Nothing bothers him. He goes in and lays down in his stall to sleep, and then when you lead him out he looks like a big old puppy dog. But then he goes out and is as quick as a cat."
Leslie's Lady is in foal to Ashford stallion and Triple Crown winner American Pharoah .