Mendelssohn Dominates UAE Derby, Kentucky Derby Next

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Mendelssohn crushes his opponents in the UAE Derby to earn a trip to the Kentucky Derby. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Trainer Aidan O'Brien said Mendelssohn had questions to answer coming into the UAE Derby sponsored by Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group March 31 at Meydan. 

After an 18 ½-length victory in track record time, the only remaining question was: How best to get the colt to Louisville.

All being well, the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve is the next stop for the Scat Daddy colt, a half-brother to multiple champion female Beholder and Grade 1 winner and successful sire Into Mischief. His victory in the UAE Derby earned 100 qualifying points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby points race, ensuring a spot in the Churchill Downs starting gate.

Derrick Smith, Susan Magnier, and Michael Tabor's Mendelssohn came into Saturday's race with a few things to prove, even to his trainer. He won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf on the turf at Del Mar and a prep race March 9 in England on a synthetic surface. But he had never been beyond a mile or run on dirt.

Questions answered.

Mendelssohn and connections in the Meydan winner's circle.
Mendelssohn and connections in the Meydan winner's circle. (Eclipse Sportswire)

With Ryan Moore riding, Mendelssohn jumped quickly out the gate, crossed over in front of UAE Oaks Sponsored by Al Naboodah Construction Group winner Rayya and led all the way, winning in 1:55.18 on the fast track, more than one second faster than the previous track record. Rayya, a Kentucky-bred Tiz Wonderful filly already ticketed for the Longines Kentucky Oaks, held gamely to finish second, three lengths ahead of Reride. Reride was last seen winning the Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland Park in New Mexico.

"The race seemed over once you cut over in front of Rayya?" Moore was asked. "It wasn't," he said, running to his next engagement on the warm night at Meydan.

"Now we know he can get further than a mile," said O'Brien, whose two other starters, Seahenge and Threeandfourpence, failed to make an impression in the UAE Derby.

"For a horse to come here and win by nearly 20 lengths is unbelievable," said M.V. Magnier, representing the Coolmore partners from Ireland, who purchased Mendelssohn for a sale-topping $3 million at the Keeneland September yearling sale, where he was consigned by his breeder, Clarkland Farm.

The Derby, Magnier said, "was obviously a dream" for a horse with Mendelssohn's pedigree. "If we could get him to be one half as good as Beholder ..."

Magnier said the owners now are optimistic about their chances of winning the Kentucky Derby for the first time. "Ryan said when he got off him he was still a little green," he said.

O'Brien said the partners will plan a training and travel schedule. "What we usually do is fly as close as we can" to race day, he said.

Mendelssohn first showed promise of living up to his pedigree when he ran second Oct. 14 in the Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket. He followed that with the Breeders' Cup win and was given a rest before returning at Dundalk for his Dubai prep. –Bob Kieckhefer


Mind Your Biscuits Rallies for Golden Shaheen Repeat

The reaction came like a ton of bricks as the Americans crossed the wire 1-2-3 in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen Sponsored By Gulf News.

Chad Summers had eyes wide in amazement, while Jorge Navarro had his hands on his hips, stunned and watching the Meydan video board.

The Summers-trained Mind Your Biscuits was nowhere to be found early on, but came on the scene late under Joel Rosario to just catch the Navarro-trained X Y Jet in the shadow of the wire to win his second straight edition of the Golden Shaheen by a head.

In the final 200 meters, it appeared to be a Rockingham Ranch domination, as champion U.S. sprinter Roy H attempted to wear down his rival carrying the same bright blue and back colors. But as it became clear Roy H would not get past the front-runner, Mind Your Biscuits emerged.

Last in the eight-horse field turning for home in the 1,200-meter (about six-furlong) dirt test, the New York-bred moved past Roy H, got within a length with 50 meters to run, and put his head down at the wire to finish the distance in 1:10.12. Roy H came in third, another three-quarters of a length back.

Out of the inside post, Rosario got Mind Your Biscuits off the rail early and went into the turn at least three wide, at the back of the field.

"I just hoped he had a last kick, because he was far away," Rosario said. "By the three-sixteenths (pole), I could see I was getting to the horse on the lead, but I still had a long way to go."

Wild Dude, a two-time U.S. grade 1 winner in 2015 now based in Dubai, made a run up the rail to pick up fourth at the age of 8, and was followed by Matera Sky, Jordan Sport, Reynaldothewizard, and My Catch to complete the order of finish.–Jeremy Balan


Godolphin Dominates Turf Races on Dubai World Cup Night

Even before Thunder Snow dominated the Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline, the home team colors of Godolphin blue flashed home first in three of the four turf races on the program, including both $6 million events.

The turf success on a warm night under a nearly full desert moon bodes well for the remainder of the year as the Godolphin string returns to Europe—or other points around the globe.

Hawkbill, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Kitten's Joy  and half-brother to Grade 1 winner Free Drop Billy, punctuated the near sweep with a front-running, three-length victory over Poet's Word in the Longines Dubai Sheema Classic. Another in Godolphin's band, Cloth of Stars, second to Enable in last fall's Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, raced keenly but could not make up ground in deep stretch, settling for third.

Hawkbill, with William Buick up for trainer Charlie Appleby, finished 2,410 meters (about 1 1/2 miles) in 2:29.45. He closed out his 2017 campaign finishing second, beaten a head, in the Northern Dancer Turf Stakes at Woodbine and warmed up for the Sheema Classic with a victory in the March 10 Dubai City Of Gold Sponsored By Emirates SkyCargo.

It was the second win on the card for Appleby, who had not previously won a race on World Cup night.

"We can all go home tonight and say the 2018 Carnival has been successful," he said.

Appleby said Hawkbill will be considered for one of the many group 1 events remaining in the Hong Kong season.

Earlier on the program, Appleby went from crushing disappointment to elation in little more than the 1 minute and 9 seconds it took to run the Al Quoz Sprint Sponsored by Azizi Developments.

The trainer's international favorite, Blue Point, with Buick scheduled to ride, was scratched at the gate following a veterinary exam. But fortune flipped when Appleby's second string, Jungle Cat, rallied to just nip Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint winner Stormy Liberal by a half-length in the 1,200-meter (about six-furlong) dash down the turf straight. Conquest Tsunami, prominent early, finished third, giving U.S. runners the top two consolation prizes.

Jungle Cat, a 6-year-old son of Iffraaj, won his third straight race sprinting at Meydan.

Buick said winning with Hawkbill helped make up for the late scratch of Blue Point.

"It's been a very up-and-down night, to say the least," he said. "I lost my best ride of the night, and I wasn't about to have that happen again."

The Godolphin resurgence continued in the Dubai Turf Sponsored by DP World, the first of two $6 million turf races on the program, as Benbatl battled from mid-pack under Oisin Murphy, surged to the front in the stretch and won by 3 1/4 lengths. Last year's winner, Vivlos, led a trio of Japanese runners behind Benbatl with Deirdre and 2016 winner Real Steel finishing in a dead heat for third.

Murphy said once he got Benbatl into stride and found a comfortable position, "I was pretty sure I would win. I've dreamed about horses like this. This is a world-class horse. And, being by Dubawi, hopefully he will improve with age."

Benbatl, a Darley-bred 4-year-old, was a promising force for Godolphin last year in England. But after finishing fifth in the Investec Derby, he was unable to break through at the top level. In three earlier runs during the World Cup Carnival, however, he posted two wins and a second.

"We were just waiting for tonight, to have him sound and ready," said winning trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "We'll give him a break now. After that, Royal Ascot could be the next test for him."

In the turf race Godolphin did not win, the Aga Khan's Vazirabad broke a pair of records with a sweeping late run that captured the Dubai Gold Cup Sponsored by Al Tayer Motors. The 6-year-old Manduro gelding not only became the first Thoroughbred to win on three separate World Cup cards by taking his third straight Gold Cup, he also established a course record, finishing the 3,200 meters (about two miles) in 3:17.92.

A mile and a half into the race, a "three-peat" looked somewhere between unlikely and impossible as jockey Christophe Soumillon had Vazirabad far behind the leaders. Starting his move on the second turn over the sweeping Meydan turf oval, Vazirabad quickly ran into contention and was in front with 100 meters left. He won by one length over local favorite SheikhzayedroadRare Rhythm, who got the better of Vazirabad in the latter's season opener over the course, was along for third in the Gold Cup.

Vazirabad is trained by Alain de Royer-Dupré.

"For sure, it's a great feeling" to win three in a row, Soumillon said. "I just hope he will be back next year to make even more history. Why not?" –Bob Kieckhefer

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