European-hopeful Mendelssohn finishes last in Kentucky Derby

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Everything looked good for European hopeful Mendelssohn entering the Kentucky Derby. Then the race started.

The $3 million colt was bumped out of the gate, and was unable to recover in driving rain on a sloppy track. The frustrating combination resulted in a last-place finish in the 20-horse field in Saturday’s 144th running at Churchill Downs.

It was a disappointing performance for the Ireland-based horse, which began horse racing’s marquee event as the second choice behind Justify, which eventually won 53\ lengths ahead of Mendelssohn. The Kentucky-bred colt had sought to become the first European horse to win the Run for the Roses, but it couldn’t recover from the early contact and was left far back of the field.

Preakness Stakes: What Time, Where to Watch and More.

Mendelssohn eased to the wire and walked off, 23} lengths behind Magnum Moon, which finished next to last after entering as another highly regarded contender.

“He just got knocked over coming out of the gate and then got knocked over going in the first bend (turn), but he’ll fine,” trainer Aidan O’Brien said of his horse. “He was never used to getting that much kickback.”

Jockey Ryan Moore agreed about the skirmish’s effect but said Mendelssohn could handle the track conditions.

“He got beat up out the gate, proceeded to check on the first turn and was never in a good place,” Moore said. “The race was over for him then.”

Mendelssohn had four wins and a second in seven starts, with wins in both 2018 races before the Derby. The horse didn’t get on the Churchill Downs track for the first time until Thursday after being quarantined following his arrival this week, but was still expected to contend.

Those hopes quickly disappeared. Despite the finish, O’Brien was encouraged about the horse’s condition. He didn’t say anything about Mendelssohn running in the Preakness, just that the horse will return home and likely be back at Churchill Downs this fall for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Whenever Mendelssohn returns, O’Brien expects a better showing the next time around.

Forte works out, waits for Belmont Stakes clearance

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NEW YORK — Forte, the early Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched on the day of the race, worked out in preparation for a possible start in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

Under regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr., Forte worked five-eighths of a mile for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. It was the colt’s second workout since being scratched from the Derby on May 6.

“It seems like he’s maintained his fitness level,” Pletcher said. “It seems like everything is in good order.”

Forte was placed on a mandatory 14-day veterinary list after being scratched from the Derby because of a bruised right front foot. In order to be removed from the list, the colt had to work in front of a state veterinarian and give a blood sample afterward, the results of which take five days.

“There’s protocols in place and we had to adhere to those and we’re happy that everything went smoothly,” Pletcher said. “We felt confident the horse was in good order or we wouldn’t have been out there twice in the last six days, but you still want to make sure everything went smoothly and we’re happy everything did go well.”

Pletcher said Kingsbarns, who finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby, will miss the Belmont. The colt is showing signs of colic, although he is fine, the trainer said.

Another Pletcher-trained horse, Prove Worthy, is under consideration for the Belmont. He also has Tapit Trice, who finished seventh in the Derby, being pointed toward the Belmont.

Judge grants Churchill Downs’ request for summary judgment to dismiss Bob Baffert’s lawsuit

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal judge has granted Churchill Downs’ motion for summary judgment that dismisses Bob Baffert’s claim the track breached due process by suspending the Hall of Fame trainer for two years.

Churchill Downs Inc. suspended Baffert in June 2021 after his now-deceased colt, Medina Spirit, failed a postrace drug test after crossing the finish line first in the 147th Kentucky Derby. The trainer’s request to lift the discipline was denied in February, keeping him out of the Derby for a second consecutive May.

U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings ruled in a 12-page opinion issued Wednesday that Churchill Downs’ suspension of Baffert did not devalue his Kentucky trainer’s license. It cited his purse winnings exceeding $1 million at Keeneland in Lexington and stated that his argument “amounts to a false analogy that distorts caselaw.”

Jennings denied CDI’s motion to stay discovery as moot.

The decision comes less than a week after Baffert-trained colt National Treasure won the Preakness in his first Triple Crown race in two years. His record eighth win in the second jewel of the Triple Crown came hours after another of his horses, Havnameltdown, was euthanized following an injury at Pimlico.

Churchill Downs said in a statement that it was pleased with the court’s favorable ruling as in Baffert’s other cases.

It added, “While he may choose to file baseless appeals, this completes the seemingly endless, arduous and unnecessary litigation proceedings instigated by Mr. Baffert.”

Baffert’s suspension is scheduled to end on June 2, but the track’s release noted its right to extend it “and will communicate our decision” at its conclusion.