03/08/2018 12:32PM

Mendelssohn starts possible drive to Kentucky Derby in Patton Stakes at Dundalk

Barbara D. Livingston
Mendelssohn, winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf last November, makes his first start of the year on Friday.

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner and Kentucky Derby hopeful Mendelssohn is expected to race for the first time as a 3-year-old Friday night at Dundalk in Ireland.

Mendelssohn is one of eight entrants in the Patton Stakes, which is the second-to-last race on the European Road to the Kentucky Derby. The Patton, which was rescheduled from March 2 because of winter weather, is a 1,600-meter race over Dundalk's synthetic surface. Mendelssohn's trainer, Aidan O'Brien, also entered Seahenge, who was Group 1-placed last year at age 2, and Threeandfourpence, who was fourth in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes in the last of his three starts in 2017.

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The seven-race European Road to the Kentucky Derby was created by Churchill Downs in an attempt to further internationalize the track’s signature race. As with the Japanese Road to the Kentucky Derby, which is in its second year, the horse with the most points at the end of the series whose connections want to run in the Derby is assured one of the race’s 20 starting spots.

Gronkowski and Saxon Warrior lead with 20 points, but Saxon Warrior is not an early Triple Crown nominee and is expected to remain in European turf races this spring. Gronkowski won the Road to the Kentucky Derby Conditions Stakes on Wednesday at Kempton Park to earn his 20 points, and he is expected to make his next start either in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland or the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, trainer Jeremy Noseda said Thursday.

Thirty-four points are awarded to the Patton’s first four finishers distributed 20-8-4-2. The last race in the series, the March 30 Burradon, is worth 51 points distributed 30-12-6-3.

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Mendelssohn is by Scat Daddy and out of the Tricky Creek mare Leslie’s Lady, a dirt-leaning pedigree that is part of the reason his connections have been considering the Triple Crown since Mendelssohn won the BC Juvenile Turf by one length over Untamed Domain. O’Brien has started five horses in the Kentucky Derby, with Master of Hounds’s fifth in 2011 the highest placing among them.

Mendelssohn was a 50-1 shot when he finished second to stablemate U S Navy Flag in the Dewhurst in his start before the BC Juvenile Turf. Ryan Moore rides him Friday night in a race scheduled go off at 2:30 p.m. Eastern.