Mendelssohn wants to be 1st Euro Kentucky Derby winner

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) No horse from Europe has won the Kentucky Derby.

But then few horses have matched the globe-trotting credentials of Mendelssohn, the 5-1 second choice for America’s greatest race on Saturday.

2018 Kentucky Derby: How to Watch, Post Time, Horses and More

Perhaps Mendelssohn, based in Ireland, will give the first leg of the Triple Crown an international flair.

He’s loaded with talent and a robust personality. Stepping onto the Churchill Downs dirt for the first time on Thursday morning, Mendelssohn let out a holler to announce his arrival.

There’s nothing shy about this boy.

It was Mendelssohn’s public debut after two days in quarantine to ensure that he and three stablemates trained by Aidan O’Brien showed no signs of illness following their overseas flight.

“He just did a very gentle exercise around the track,” Pat Keating, O’Brien’s traveling assistant, said. “We couldn’t be happier with him. We just wanted to get him out and stretch his legs. No problems. All good.”

And that could be bad news for the competition. Mendelssohn has already shown the ability to handle challenges around the globe.

After posting a modest 1-for-4 record to start his career in Europe, Mendelssohn headed to California in November to capture the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar.

Then it was back to Europe with the long-range goal of preparing for the Derby and the shift from turf to dirt. His first race this year was a victory over a synthetic surface in Ireland.

And then came a resounding triumph in the UAE Derby in Dubai in March where Mendelssohn romped by 18 + lengths to earn a trip to Kentucky, where he was bred.

Returning from the desert, Mendelssohn completed his Derby preparations at the famed Ballydolyle training center in County Tipperary.

Now he’s back in the U.S. sporting an impressive record supported by a powerful pedigree. His sire was the late Scat Daddy, who has four sons in this year’s Derby. He is a half brother to the retired mare Beholder, a four-time Eclipse Award winner.

The combination of good looks and golden bloodlines are the reason Mendelssohn brought a sales-topping $3 million at the 2016 Keeneland Yearling Sales from the trio of Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor.

“They looked so much alike, Mendelssohn and Beholder,” said Fred Mitchell, who bred both at his Clarkland Farm in Lexington, Kentucky. “They weren’t big foals and they didn’t start maturing until we started prepping them for the sales. He had such a gorgeous eye on him, he was unbelievable. He looked like a classy horse.”

And perhaps a bargain, if Mendelssohn notches another win Saturday in his latest travelogue.

369 horses nominated to compete in Triple Crown series

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A total of 369 3-year-olds were made eligible to compete in this year’s Triple Crown series during the early nomination period.

Each of the horses was nominated through a $600 payment to compete in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont stakes. The Triple Crown opens May 6 with the Derby.

The number of nominated horses increased by 57 from last year’s total of 312. They include a record 37 horses based in Japan.

Among the notable horses is Forte, last year’s 2-year-old champion trained by Todd Pletcher.

Also among the predominantly male horses nominated was a filly named Hoosier Philly.

Brad Cox led all trainers with 38 horses nominated to the series. Pletcher was second with 36 horses, followed by Steve Asmussen and Ken McPeek with 13 each. Chad Brown and Hideyuki Mori had 12 each.

Others nominated include Arabian Knight, Cave Rock and Newgate, all trained by Bob Baffert. He is currently banned by Churchill Downs Inc. through this year’s Derby, although Baffert is challenging his two-year punishment in federal court.

For the Derby, horses under the care of any suspended trainer may be transferred to another trainer and become eligible to earn Derby qualifying points as long as the transfer is done by Feb. 28.

Last year, Baffert transferred two horses to another trainer and both ran in the Derby, although neither was highly placed.

Horses that were not nominated to the Triple Crown series by the early deadline of Jan. 28 can make a late payment of $6,000 through March 27 to become eligible.

Newgate wins Robert B. Lewis Stakes; Baffert runs 1-2-3-4

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Newgate won the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes by a neck, with Bob Baffert as the trainer of all four horses in the Kentucky Derby prep race at Santa Anita.

Ridden by Frankie Dettori, Newgate ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.11 and paid $4 and $2.60 as the even-money favorite. There was no show wagering because of the field size.

Hard to Figure returned $5.20 at 12-1 odds. Worcester was another 1 3/4 lengths back in third. Arabian Lion was fourth.

“So much improvement in all these horses,” Baffert said. “I was actually nervous before the race, worried that something weird might happen, but I can relax now.”

The Lewis was a Kentucky Derby prep race, but no points were awarded because Baffert has been banned for two years by Churchill Downs Inc. The Hall of Fame trainer was in Louisville to testify in federal court as he seeks a temporary injunction to end the suspension, which runs through the end of the upcoming spring meet. It was meted out following a failed drug test by Medina Spirit after the colt finished first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

Newgate earned his first graded stakes victory. The colt was second, beaten by a neck in the Sham Stakes last month in his previous start.

“Frankie Dettori has been teaching him how to just sit back, relax and come with a punch and that’s what he did today,” Baffert said.

The victory, worth $120,000, increased Newgate’s career earnings to $241,975, with two wins in six starts.