O'Brien Trio Embark on Derby Trail in Patton Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

February 28th, 2019

Following a lengthy winter hiatus, the European Road to the Kentucky Derby will resume on March 1 with the one-mile Patton Stakes at Dundalk in Ireland. Last year, the Patton marked the successful seasonal debut for Mendelssohn, a highly-regarded colt campaigned by Ireland’s leading trainer Aidan O’Brien. Mendelssohn’s victory in the Patton served as a springboard to a productive 2018 campaign that included a romping victory in the UAE Derby and a start in the Kentucky Derby.

O’Brien appears to have this year’s Patton thoroughly surrounded. He trains three of the eight starters, including the expected favorites #8 Western Australia and #1 Van Beethoven, two experienced colts that O’Brien has nominated to the Triple Crown.

Western Australia wasn’t exactly a frequent winner last year, prevailing once in six starts as a juvenile, but he wasn’t disgraced in his stakes attempts and ended the season with a third-place finish in the one-mile Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes (Eng-I) at Doncaster. The switch to Polytrack for the Patton is a question mark since he’s only ever run on turf, but his career-best 112 Racing Post Rating towers over this field and he’ll have O’Brien’s go-to top jockey Ryan Moore in the saddle.

Van Beethoven can’t boast quite the same level of form and might be more of a sprinter than a router, but he did win the Railway Stakes (Eng-II) last summer and finished a decent fourth behind the unbeaten Too Darn Hot in the seven-furlong Champagne Stakes (Eng-II) in September, earning a 105 Racing Post Rating. As a son of Scat Daddy (the sire of Mendelssohn), Van Beethoven should handle the switch to Polytrack, though he’ll be carrying five pounds more than Western Australia.

O’Brien’s third entrant, #2 Albuquerque, wasn’t nominated to the Triple Crown and counts a second-out maiden win at Gowran Park as his career highlight to date. Still, he’s a son of Galileo and a full brother to the high-class Rip Van Winkle, so there could be room for improvement from this lightly-raced up-and-comer.

The other five would need to step up to challenge the O’Brien trio. #3 Barys has won two straight races over all-weather tracks for trainer Archie Watson, who wins at a high percentage over Great Britain’s synthetic tracks (he rarely ships to Ireland). But Barys has never raced at Dundalk, so a runner like #7 Playa Del Puente could hold a slight advantage since he’s 2-for-2 over this track and has been steadily upping his game in terms of Racing Post Ratings.

Meanwhile, O’Brien’s son Joseph will saddle two starters of his own in #4 Colfer Me and #6 Numerian, who have exchanged victories in recent races at Dundalk, though their jockeys Seamie Heffernan and Donnacha O’Brien have jumped ship to ride Albuquerque and Van Beethoven. #5 Manjeer, a narrow maiden winner going seven furlongs at Leopardstown in October, completes the field.

It would come as a surprise if Aidan O’Brien fails to win this race, but as can be seen, there’s no shortage of interesting horses to play underneath in the exotics. I personally rank Western Australia as the horse to beat and will key him on top while using his stablemates plus Barys and Playa Del Puente underneath:

$9 exacta: 8 with 1,2 ($18) $2 trifecta: 8 with 1,2 with 1,2,3,7 $12)

Good luck!