Column: Mendelssohn mismanaged like no other horse in recent memory

By Jeffrey Byrnes
December 02, 2018 07:17pm

Mendelssohn, perhaps the most regally bred colt of the 2018 3-year-old crop, ended his career in Saturday's Grade 1 Cigar Mile, capping a campaign in which he repeatedly traveled to and from the United States between futile dirt starts.

The half-brother to emerging sire Into Mischief and champion Beholder, Mendelssohn, a $3 million purchase, will stand at Coolmore's Ashford Stud in 2019 -- and I believe his resume should be much stronger.

The colt's career took off after he won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar, and connections from there hinted at a Kentucky Derby try. Mendelssohn, by late sire Scat Daddy, rewarded connections and gave them plenty of hope when he destroyed the UAE Derby (G2) field at Meydan.

He looked like the best chance trainer Aidan O'Brien had at the Derby. The same went for Coolmore.

Of course, we know what happened after that, as the track came up sloppy at Churchill Downs, and Mendelssohn was banged around leaving the gate. He never really had a chance. But there would be other opportunities, only I don't believe connections set Mendelssohn up to succeed.

Coolmore could have sent him back to Europe to compete in prestigious races such as the St. James's Palace Stakes, the Coral-Eclipse Stakes or the Juddmonte International. Rather, Mendelssohn continued to travel between America and Ireland, logging some 14,000 miles in transcontinental flights.

To his credit, Mendelssohn ran well to finish second in the Travers Stakes (G1) and third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1). But I believe he should have been able to manage better.

O'Brien hasn't won a Grade 1 dirt race since the 2001 Breeders' Cup Juvenile with Johannesburg. Overall, his runners in North America are 1-for-58 on the main track.

Had Coolmore believed Mendelssohn was a dirt horse all along, couldn't he have stabled in the U.S.? Remained with a more proven dirt trainer? Not forced to travel overseas every time he raced?

These are not new questions, of course, but rather those asked by racing fans throughout his campaign. And now that Mendelssohn is retired, we'll never really know what he was capable of if kept in the U.S., or given the chance to return to turf.

What we saw Saturday looked like a tired horse. Mendelssohn didn't show the same kick, failing to make the lead, and didn't hang on quite like he normally does even when defeated.

I don't think connections did what was best for the horse. The consolation is, we're only a few years from seeing what sort of foals he produces.


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Meet Jeff Brynes

I have loved this sport since my early childhood. My first true memory was when my grandfather took me to Saratoga for the 2005 Travers Stakes, and watching Flower Alley come down the stretch to duel with Bellamy Road. I'll never forget that day, the roar of the crowd, and the pure excitement of winning. I became an instant fan of the game. Since then, I've visited many tracks, among them Monmouth Park, Saratoga Harness, Freehold Raceway, Belmont Park, and the Meadowlands -- all in the New York / New Jersey area. 

Of all the horses I've seen in my lifetime, none have captured my imagination like Curlin. The two time Horse of the Year is, and will always be, my all-time favorite horse. Other favorites include Rachel Alexandra, Medaglia D'Oro, Wise Dan and American Pharaoh.

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