Weekend Rewind: Mendelssohn, Audible shine in Kentucky Derby preps

by Laura Pugh
April 02, 2018 09:13am
Weekend Rewind: Mendelssohn, Audible shine in Kentucky Derby preps
Photo: Lauren King/Gulfstream Park

With the 2018 Kentucky Derby trail spotlight on 3-year-olds in the Florida Derby and UAE Derby, neither group disappointed last Saturday.

UAE Derby winner Mendelson shattered the track record of 1:56.61 for 1 3/16 miles at Meydan previously set by Mizbahin in 2016. He won by a record margin of 18 ½ lengths in 1:55.18. Meanwhile in Florida, while Audible set no time or margin records, he did become only the second horse to ever take both the Holy Bull Stakes and Florida Derby -- without having a prep between the two races. The only other to accomplish that task had been Barbaro in 2006.

Both efforts were monumental, despite the fact that Beyer seems to think that the UAE Derby far surpassed the Florida Derby, giving Audible a 99 speed figure and Mendelssohn a 106. Other figure makers have been far more generous of the effort, with Brisnet giving Audible a career high of 107, while TimeformUS gave the effort a 122. Both figures are an improvement over his Holy Bull effort, while Beyer rates the effort on the same level as the Holy Bull.

No Brisnet figure is available for the UAE Derby. However, Craig Milkowski TimeformUS’ chief figure maker, gave the effort an unofficial figure of 128. Should the 128 hold true, it would represent the highest TimeformUS figure earned by any 3-year-old on the Derby trail thus far. The track, as noted by many was extremely fast on Saturday, several track records fell, and it that variant that will determine the final TimeformUS figure that Mendelssohn receives.

Both of these horses jumped way up in my opinion of them. Audible still has a questionable pedigree, however, he does have a similar family to Beholder, as her half-brother Into Mischief is his sire, and she was able to win going 10 furlongs. Also, it has to be noted that Audible has never run like a sprinter. His energy expansion in his last two starts resemble that of a router’s 100 percent. If he relaxes in the Derby the same way he did in his last two starts, there is no reason he can’t produce the same furious late rush that has won him the Holy Bull and Florida Derby in such spectacular fashion.

Some also may have distance concerns regarding Mendelssohn’s pedigree, but what was said above applies to him even more so, since he is Beholder’s half-brother, and is sired by a sire that is arguable substantially less speed oriented than Henny Hughes, in Scat Daddy.

Typically I toss horses coming from the UAE Derby, but Mendelssohn is a different breed than what has been produced from this prep in recent years. He’s a Breeders’ Cup winner, he’s already proven his ability to handle two turns, and unlike most UAE Derby winners, he looked completely comfortable over the dirt. He swapped leads right on cue and ran straight as an arrow. If he can handle the trip, make no mistake, he will be the best shot in the history of UAE Derby winners to become the first to take the Kentucky Derby, while using the UAE Derby as his final prep.

Under the radar

A horse that put in a sneaky good effort this weekend was Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming.

Going into the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Mile, he had never won going a distance under a mile. That did not change Saturday. However he did finish a very encouraging second, finishing up just three lengths behind the winner, while holding off late charges from Tommy Macho and Page McKenney.

It's unknown where a large ownership group and trainer Todd Pletcher will choose to point the son of Bodemeister next. If it's the Met Mile, I believe that would be a mistake. As noted above, Always Dreaming has never won going a mile or under, and the one turn mile at Belmont would only damage his chances more. He has proven much better when stretching out to nine furlongs around two turns, which is why I hope the major goal proves to be the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs.

Biggest bloopers

There were some outstanding performances for the highlight reels this weekend, but there were also some pretty big blunder, but none bigger than the opening half mile of the Florida Derby.

I understand that both jockeys -- Luis Saez (Strike Power) and Robby Alborado (Promises Fulfilled) -- may have been under instruction to get the lead at any cost. But I don’t think that mean at the cost of committing pace suicide.

I would think that as a jockey, it is part of your job to not just follow instructions, but to access the situation, and react accordingly. If that had been the case, maybe the opening quarter would have been more like 22 4/5 instead of 21 and 4/5.

I get the need to follow instructions, but not to the detriment of your own mount’s chances, especially when you are favored among the top four! You wouldn’t jump off a bridge without a chute or bungee rope just because you were instructed to… right?

The lack of ability to adapt shown by both jockeys cost both their mounts not just a win chance, but the ability to place and earn any Kentucky Derby points at all. Strike Power finished next to last, with Promises Fulfilled following him in last. The latter already assured himself a spot in the Kentucky Derby, but Saez arguably cost Strike Power points that could have earned him a spot in the gate.


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Meet Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh got her first taste of Thoroughbred racing when she watched War Emblem take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2002. At that point, she fell in love with the sport, reading every piece of news and information she could get her fingertips on.

Laura has a long history with horses in general, taking her first ride on her fifth birthday, with her first official riding lesson when she was eight years old. Both years she attended college, she joined her school’s equestrian team, first at Virginia Intermont College and then again at Delaware State University. Unfortunately, after back and shoulder injuries, she had to hang up her saddle. 

In 2010, Laura began writing for Horse Racing Nation and has also contributed to Lady and the Track, TwinSpires and USRacing. She currently works at a local newspaper as a community reporter.

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