Mendelssohn Returns to the U.S. for Dwyer Stakes

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July 6th, 2018

He was one of the most polarizing horses in the 2018 Kentucky Derby field, with some handicappers viewing him as a prime win candidate and others tossing him from all of their tickets.

That horse was Mendelssohn, who joined the Derby field with his breathtaking 18 ½-length romp in the UAE Derby (UAE-II) at Meydan. Unfortunately, a poor trip over a sloppy, sealed track led to Mendelssohn being eased in the Kentucky Derby, so he’ll be looking to rebound when he returns to the U.S. for Saturday’s $300,000 Dwyer Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont Park.

Trained by Aidan O’Brien, Mendelssohn started his career on turf in Europe and showed last November that he can bring him A-game to North American by shipping to Del Mar and winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. I) in an impressive performance. But his wildly different efforts in the UAE Derby and Kentucky Derby have introduced questions about his ability on dirt—was the UAE Derby a fluke? Or were the conditions of the Kentucky Derby simply too much for him to handle?

Mendelssohn isn’t the only horse seeking a return to winning form in the Dwyer. Noble Indy made a name for himself by winning the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) in a gutsy performance, but the speedy son of Take Charge Indy failed to secure his typical position near the front in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes and finished far behind on both occasions. Likewise, Firenze Fire won the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) over a quality field last October, but he’s struggled in his subsequent graded stakes attempts and was never a serious factor in the Kentucky Derby, though he did finish ahead of Noble Indy and Mendelssohn.

Given the questions surrounding the favorites, there could be an opportunity for a lightly-raced horse such as Rugbyman to step up and contend for victory. Trained by Graham Motion, Rugbyman caught eyes when breaking his maiden by 14 lengths at Belmont Park, after which he was beaten just a neck in Belmont’s Easy Goer Stakes despite racing very greenly down the homestretch. This time around, Rugbyman will be equipped with blinkers, an equipment change that could help him achieve his potential.

Mendelssohn’s stablemate Seahenge, winner of the Champagne Stakes (Eng-II) at Doncaster last year, will also ship in from Ireland to contest the Dwyer. Rounding out the field are Seven Trumpets, runner-up behind Firenze Fire in the Jerome Stakes back in January; and Fixedincome Larry, a recent maiden winner at Belmont Park.

The Dwyer Stakes is the sixth race of the day, with a post time of 4:36 p.m. Eastern.