No European-trained horse has won the Kentucky Derby and the team at Ballydoyle clearly want to add the race to their extensive list of triumphs and they appear to have their best chance to date this year.
The race is now beginning to take shape after two eye-catching performances over the last few days. You couldn’t help but be impressed by the way Mendelssohn won out in Dubai on World Cup night (31st March) taking the Group Two UAE Derby in some style finishing 18½ lengths clear of the opposition in very easy fashion suggesting there is plenty more to come from the Scat Daddy colt. He was promptly promoted to favourite for the Kentucky Derby with it appeared even American commentators impressed by the performance. He is bred for the job being by the sadly now deceased Scat Daddy a stallion the Coolmore operation had used regularly – see Caravaggio and Seahenge for example - whilst his dam Leslie’s Lady has already produced a couple out of the top drawer being the dam of 2yo Grade One winner Into Mischief and more recently Beholder the G.1 Breeders Cup Distaff winner of 2016.
Another Scat Daddy colt in the shape of Justify entered calculations by winning the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on the 7th April, considered one of the major trials for Churchill Downs. That was only his third start, he has won all three, and trainer Bob Baffert was saying afterwards the colt’s performances to date are purely a result of his “raw talent” as opposed to hard training. “He’s doing that all on his own,” Baffert said. “He did it pretty impressively and he's still a little green. In the other races, he had horses with him early. This time he was by himself.” His dam Stage Magic was no great shakes on the track and to date hasn’t produced any offspring of outstanding talent but you have to be impressed by this win the 3 lengths winning margin not telling the story of just how easily he won.
The Run for the Roses as they call it Stateside might just turn out to be a real cracker this year and I have a feeling, four weekends out, that the ‘lads’ from Ballydoyle might just have one that can finally see the home teams stranglehold broken.