Dissecting The Derby: Mendelssohn

Dissecting The Derby: Mendelssohn

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - No race is tougher to ferret out than the Kentucky Derby, which at times can seem as perplexing 30 minutes before post time as it is 30 days out.

It can look so easy after the fact, so here we helpfully tell you in advance why the winner will prevail.

Of course we do it for every horse in the field -- as well as explaining why you can't possibly cash a ticket betting that horse.

So let us do the detective work as we case out the Kentucky Derby -- including the perilous exercise of handicapping the Racing Gods.

Notes: Final Fractions reflects how fast the horse ran the last eighth-mile and last three-eighths of a mile in its 1 1/8-mile prep race. The Final Fraction Theory rules out horses who ran the last eighth slower than 13.0 and the last three-eighths in slower than 38.0. Bris and Beyer speed figures are ratings designed to compute how fast a horse ran taking into account track conditions as a means of comparing horses from different tracks and races.

Owner: Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor
Trainer: Aiden O'Brien
Jockey: Ryan Moore
Record: 7—4-1-0
Earnings: $1,961,092
Last race: 1st, UAE Derby, Meydan Race Course
Fastest Bris speed figure: 91, Breeders' Juvenile Turf
Fastest Beyer speed figure: 106, UAE Derby
Final fractions in last race: Not applicable

Why Mendelssohn can win
Did you see his UAE Derby, which he won by 18 lengths? Next question. He's already run 1 3/16 miles, farther than any horse in the field. He's already shipped from Ireland to America to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. His 106 Beyer in the UAE Derby ranks among the fastest in this field. Aidan O'Brien is one of the world's great trainers. At $3 million — and out of the same mare as four-time champ Beholder and top sire Into Mischief— Mendelssohn was bought with the intention of winning such a race. Horses named after people (Nyquist, Giacomo, Smarty Jones) have fared well in recent years.

Why he won't
He beat a collection of grass and second-string dirt horses in the UAE Derby.  You tell me how a Beyer speed figure is calculated for an overseas track for which figures usually aren't done. This is a bad year to try to be doing what has never been done: A UAE Derby horse hitting the board in the Kentucky Derby. If he's off a step slow from post 14 — and European horses generally aren't as quick out of the gate as the Yankee competitors — Mendelssohn risks getting smacked around and swallowed as the horses in the auxiliary gate come over trying to get position. He's never experienced the dirt kickback he will get in this race unless he's wide the entire way. Fusaichi Pegasus, a $4 million yearling and the 2000 winner, is the only seven-digit auction purchase to wear the roses. O'Brien is one of the world's great trainers, but he's won only one Grade 1 race on dirt: Johannesburg (Mendelssohn's granddad) in the 2001 Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He went on to be eighth in O'Brien's first Kentucky Derby.

The last time a horse won the Kentucky Derby after making his prior start outside North America was Canonero II in 1971. The best Kentucky Derby finish by a horse who ran in the UAE Derby has been fifth. Carry Back in 1961 is the last of two winners out of post 14 in the starting-gate era. Trainer Aidan O'Brien's best finish out of five prior starters is Master of Hounds' fifth in 2011. Jockey Ryan Moore has been in one other Kentucky Derby, coming in seventh on the O'Brien-trained Lines of Battle in 2013. Co-owner Michael Tabor won the 1995 Kentucky Derby and Belmont with the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Thunder Gulch.

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