Weld says Mendelssohn has ‘wonderful chance’ to win Kentucky Derby

Aidan O’Brien’s Irish hope draws stall 14 for Saturday night’s ‘Run for the Roses’

Dermot Weld is the only trainer based in Europe to ever win an American classic but he reckons Aidan O'Brien has a "wonderful chance" of securing a historic Kentucky Derby success this Saturday with Mendelssohn.

Vintage Crop’s landmark 1993 Melbourne Cup victory sealed Weld’s status as an international pioneer although that Australian expedition was preceded in 1990 by Go And Go’s ground-breaking success in the Belmont Stakes.

Go And Go routed his US opposition in the third leg of the American Triple Crown with that year’s Kentucky Derby hero Unbridled only fourth. Over a quarter of a century later he remains the only European raider to ever win a US classic.

Four years previously the English runner Bold Arrangement finished runner -up in the Kentucky Derby which remains the closest a European runner has ever come to winning America’s most famous race.


However, on the back of a spectacular UAE Derby victory in Meydan, Mendelssohn is among the favourites to make history at Churchill Downs.

O’Brien’s star crossed the Atlantic on Monday but had to overcome a logistical hiccup when a reported paperwork issue with a groom travelling in the Ballydoyle party resulted in the flight landing in Indianapolis rather than Louisville.

It meant the Irish party, which includes the older horses Deauville and War Decree who will run on Saturday’s undercard, arrived at Churchill Downs four to five hours later than anticipated. Mendelssohn is expected to leave quarantine and exercise on the track on Thursday.

The $3 million yearling purchase will be O’Brien’s sixth runner in the Kentucky Derby although Master Of Hounds’ fifth in 2011 remains his best placing.

Weld, however, believes his Irish rival has a prime contender in Saturday night’s $2 million highlight and stressed how Go And Go’s success shows how winning at the highest level on American dirt is possible.

“It’s a pretty big call but this is quite doable and I believe he [Mendelssohn] has a great chance. I think he’s Aidan’s best chance of winning the Kentucky Derby and wouldn’t it be great to see it.

“He’s a very experienced horse which is very important. He’s already raced successfully in America and in Dubai so he’s a horse that obviously travels well and has a lot of travel experience.

Dirt kickback

“Go And Go had a lot of experience before the Belmont. He’d won the Grade One Laurel Futurity on dirt and he’d also run in the Breeders Cup Juvenile. This horse has the same and I think he has a great chance of winning,” the legendary trainer said on Tuesday.

Concern has been expressed as to how Mendelssohn might cope with facing dirt kickback for the first time. He made all to win in Meydan but faces a major task if he’s to do the same in a 20-runner field on Saturday. Mendelssohn has been allotted stall 14 in Tuesday’s post-draw for the big race.

"The kickback is a big thing. And the draw is very important in a Kentucky Derby. But this horse has the pace to get up to and into a nice position. He has a world class rider in Ryan Moore and I just think he'll be very hard to beat. I think he has a wonderful chance," Weld added.

The Curragh trainer’s own classic ambitions are set to take in this Bank Holiday Monday’s Naas card where Imaging is likely to line up in the Tetrarch Stakes.

Imaging pressed Saturday’s Newmarket 2,000 Guineas favourite Gustav Klimt all the way in last month’s Leopardstown Trial when he looking a legitimate Group One prospect himself.

“It will be either the Tetrarch or the French Guineas next. It’s more likely to be Tetrarch. It was an excellent run the last day and if everything goes well he’ll run next with a view to go onto the Irish 2,000 Guineas,” Weld said.

Saturday week’s Blue Wind Stakes at the Curragh may see the return to action of Contingent who is already a 20-1 shot for the Oaks on the back of her sole juvenile appearance at Leopardstown last Autumn.

“I had a slight setback with Contingent, nothing major, but she’s probably two weeks behind schedule. The Blue Wind is a definite possibility,” added Weld.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column