Ryan Moore facing transatlantic dash as Mendelssohn bids for glory in Saratoga
English jockey due back at Curragh on Sunday to ride, among others, 2019 derby favourite Anthony Van Dyck
Ryan Moore’s hectic weekend schedule takes him from Mendelssohn’s Grade One appearance in upstate New York on Saturday night and back for an early start at the Curragh on Sunday afternoon.
The English jockey’s handful of rides at Irish racing’s HQ include an appearance by next year’s Derby favourite, Anthony Van Dyck, in the Group Two Galileo Futurity.
Anthony Van Dyck leads a three-pronged Ballydoyle challenge on the six-runner feature as Aidan O’Brien chases a 12th win in the race.
However a first top-flight victory in over six weeks will be O’Brien’s trans-Atlantic focus in Saratoga on Saturday night. Even allowing for the illness that has disrupted normal Ballydoyle service, such a gap at the height of the season is unusual for O’Brien who saddled a world record 28 Group/Grade One winners in 2017.
So far this year he has had ‘only’ eight, the last of them coming when Kew Gardens and US Navy Flag both scored at the top level on July 14th. All local eyes then will be on Mendelssohn’s attempt to get his career back on track in the $1.25 million Travers Stakes on dirt which is due off at 10.44 Irish-time.
Almost an hour before that though his stable companion Seahenge takes his chance in the $1 million mile and a half Sword Dancer Stakes. Wayne Lordan has to do 8st on the sole three year old in the race.
Seahenge is a complete 30-1 outsider with local layers for his race due off at 9.49 and while Mendelssohn is rated shorter at 12-1 he has plenty to prove to sceptical American race-watchers.
The Scat Daddy colt carried a huge reputation to the Kentucky Derby on the back of his spectacular Dubai success in March but the ‘Run for the Roses’ proved a muddy disaster behind the Triple Crown hero Justify.
A return to action last month in the Dwyer Stakes was more encouraging although a Grade Three third is hardly what the Mendelssohn hype was originally all about.
O’Brien is still targeting the Breeders Cup Classic in early November so if that’s realistic then his enigmatic colt has to step up in a prestigious contest staged at a track famously known as ‘The Graveyard of Champions’.
Even the 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah contributed to that tag by getting beaten in the Travers.
There’s no Justify in opposition this time but the 2-1 favourite is Good Magic, runner-up in the Kentucky Derby and an impressive winner of the Haskell last time. Good Magic is drawn nine of the 11 runners, one outside Mendelssohn.
Whatever the outcome Moore won’t be loitering at ‘The Springs’ as he is due to ride in the first race at the Curragh at 1.35 on Sunday. The Englishman teams up with one of three regally-bred Ballydoyle newcomers in the first race where Donnacha O’Brien – who returns from suspension this weekend – is on Recovery Road for his brother, Joseph.
The siblings also team up for the impressive Killarney winner Iridessa in the Group Two Debutante Stakes where Moore has opted for the 1.6 million Guineas Cork winner Zagitova.
That’s the formidable opposition ranged against Lady Kaya who cost only €15,000 as a foal yet looked a potential superstar for trainer Sheila Lavery when winning by ten lengths over the course and distance earlier this month.
Anthony Van Dyck won his maiden at Killarney by eight lengths and just 11 days later landed the Tyros by nearly five. That he could do that at a time when the Ballydoyle ‘bug’ was circulating with a vengeance indicates a very promising colt en-route to the National Stakes.
Last year’s National Stakes winner Verbal Dexterity makes a belated first start of the season in the Group Three Royal Whip. It’s another three year old, Ming, who can make race-fitness pay off on the back of an unlucky run in America last time.
Willie Mullins’s weekend reach may not be trans-Atlantic but he has seven runners at Killarney on Saturday and four split over the two days at the Curragh.
Most importantly Mullins also has two chances in the Ebor at York through the ante-post favourite Stratum and Whiskey Sour. Mullins won the prestigious handicap in 2009 with Sesenta.
Ger Lyons (Mustajeer) and Jarlath Fahey (Sea The Lion) will also try and supply a fifth Irish Ebor win in ten years.