ELMONT, N.Y. – While the connections of many U.S.-based horses have opted to train their horses up to the Breeders’ Cup in November at Churchill Downs, the Ireland-based Aidan O’Brien has taken a different approach.
On Tuesday, O’Brien shipped the 3-year-old Mendelssohn to New York, where on Saturday at Belmont Park he will take on fellow Euro shipper Thunder Snow and the speedy multiple Grade 1 winner Diversify in an intriguing 100th renewal of the Grade 1, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Mendelssohn finished last of 20 in the Kentucky Derby, and is making his third transcontinental trip to New York since then. He finished third in the Grade 3 Dwyer here in July and second in last month’s Travers at Saratoga. O’Brien had earlier this year mentioned the Pennsylvania Derby, run last week at Parx, as a possible spot for Mendelssohn, but said there were issues with the quarantine procedures.
“This race we thought would suit him well,” O’Brien said Wednesday by phone from Ireland.
O’Brien said he’s happy with the way Mendelssohn came out of the Travers.
“We were going to go straight to the Classic, but he took the race very well,” he said.
Mendelssohn led for bit more than a mile of the 1 1/4-mile Travers before being overtaken by Catholic Boy. Mendelssohn finished four lengths behind Catholic Boy and a length clear of third-place finisher Bravazo.
“We were happy with the run,” O’Brien said.
Mendelssohn drew post 3 in a field of eight entered Wednesday for the Jockey Club, run at 1 1/4 miles. The Jockey Club Gold Cup is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race, with the winner being awarded a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Diversify broke sharply from the rail and led every step of the way in last year’s Gold Cup. He will break from post 6 on Saturday.
Thunder Snow, who won the Dubai World Cup in March, arrived in New York last week from England, where he ran eighth at York in the Juddmonte International on Aug. 22. On Wednesday, he worked a half-mile in 52.94 seconds over a muddy Belmont main track. He wasn’t asked for much by exercise rider Ian Burns.
Assistant Tommy Burns, who is overseeing Thunder Snow’s preparation until trainer Saeed bin Suroor arrives, said it was important to get something into the horse, but he would have preferred to do it over a dry track.
“I wish the track was better,” Burns said. “We had to sort of just look after him today. We got a blow into him is the main thing. He’s a lazy horse at home, very lazy, that’s why we ran him at York, to get a race into him.”
Burns said he thought about postponing the work to Thursday, but there was rain forecast for Wednesday night.
Thunder Snow drew the outside post in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Carlino drew the rail, followed by Belmont Stakes runner-up Gronkowski, Mendelssohn, Patch, Uno Mas Modelo, Diversify, Discreet Lover, and Thunder Snow.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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