Mendelssohn enjoys perfect Kentucky Derby warm-up in Dubai
Aidan O’Brien’s brilliant colt wins UAE Derby by a massive 18 lengths
Ryan Moore on Mendelssohn stretches clear of the field in winning the UAE Derby at Meydan in Dubai. Photograph: Ali Haider/EPA
All roads lead to Churchill Downs for Mendelssohn after he passed a crucial test with flying colours in the UAE Derby at Meydan.
Aidan O’Brien has been keen on a tilt at Kentucky Derby glory ever since the Scat Daddy colt claimed the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last November and he kept the dream alive with a comeback success at Dundalk in early March.
He stepped up beyond a mile and tested his powers on dirt for the first time on World Cup night – and it is fair to say it was a resounding success.
Mendelssohn (13-8 favourite) dominated proceedings from start to finish under Ryan Moore, making much of the running and powering clear for a jaw-dropping 18-length success in a course-record time.
O’Brien said: “I’m over the moon and it was the way he did it, going forward from the start and doing it the hard way.
“He galloped out and saw every yard of the distance. We knew it was very important how he handled the dirt, but he loved the surface.
“Ryan was happy he had a good draw and if he broke well he was happy to let him travel in front, he gave him a great ride – we couldn’t be happier.
“He came forward lovely from his first run and that was good experience for him on that surface first time.”
Moore was suitably impressed.
“He’s a very fast horse. He could have led a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf if I’d wanted to,” said the jockey.
“It’s the first time he’s been in front today and he’s still a horse that’s learning, so he was still a bit green in places.
“It was his first run on dirt, so that was huge for him, and it was his first time at this trip, so that was another question mark.
“He’s a high-quality horse who has got better with every start.”
BetVictor cut Mendelssohn to 8-1 co-favourite of four from 20-1 for the Kentucky Derby, and looking ahead to his intended appearance at Churchill Downs on May 5th, Moore added: “Obviously the next time it’s going to be a far tougher question, there’s no doubt about that, but we’re very happy with what he’s done and I still feel he will get better.
“He’s got the pedigree and the looks to go with the form that he’s producing, so he’s a very exciting horse.”
Vazirabad, meanwhile, will be aimed at the Ascot Gold Cup after charging home to make history with a third successive victory in the Dubai Gold Cup.
Just as he did last season, Alain de Royer-Dupre’s six-year-old warmed up for his big-race assignment by finishing second in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy over a mile and three-quarters a month ago and was the hot favourite to add to his tally on World Cup night.
Frontiersman took the field along ahead of fellow Godolphin representative Red Galileo and that pair rounded the home turn with a significant advantage over the rest of the field.
However, Vazirabad and Christophe Soumillon soon began to make inroads and the French challenger was well on top at the line, winning in a course-record time, becoming the first horse to win three times on World Cup night.
David Simcock’s Sheikhzayedroad came from a long way back to fill the runner-up spot, but last year’s Ascot Gold Cup hero Big Orange was a big disappointment for Michael Bell and Frankie Dettori.