Grade 1 hero MENDELSSOHN and multiple Grade 3 scorer MY BOY JACK return to action on Saturday at Belmont Park for the first time since unplaced runs in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Mendelssohn tried to give European champion trainer Aidan O’Brien his first Kentucky Derby victory on May 5, but the bay son of Scat Daddy suffered a rough trip and ended up last in the 20-horse field. Shipped back to the famed Ballydoyle stable yard in Ireland, Mendelssohn was given plenty of time to recover from his Run for the Roses effort.
Looking to put his Derby travails behind him, Mendelssohn has made a third trip to the United States for the $300,000 Dwyer Stakes (G3) on Belmont Park’s Stars and Stripes Saturday program. He’ll face six rivals in the one-mile contest, including fellow Kentucky Derby runners NOBLE INDY, who finished 17th prior to a 10th-placing in the Belmont Stakes (G1) most recently, and FIRENZE FIRE, last seen filling the 11th spot in the Derby.
Mendelssohn will also have to overcome stablemate Seahenge, who ran seventh in the Pat Day Mile (G3) on the Kentucky Derby undercard. That pair, along with two other O’Brien trainees who shipped over for the Stars and Stripes card, cleared quarantine on Thursday and jogged over Belmont Park’s main track.
"All four of them traveled well," traveling head lad T.J. Comerford said in regards to Mendelssohn, Seahenge, Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) runner Hunting Horn and Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1) hopeful Athena. "They're all in good shape. They actually look really well. They were all out at the track this morning looking like a million dollars.
"I think this track will suit him better, him and Seahenge," Comerford added. "Seahenge ran really good at Churchill and Mendelssohn got in a bit of a bugger at the start. I suppose those things happen, but the way he did it in Dubai, if he could come with something like that, it's close.
"He's had a good year up to the Kentucky Derby, but the Kentucky Derby is the Kentucky Derby. Those are the things you meet along the way. He's in good shape. He's eating up every night so we're happy with them."
Mendelssohn is the 8-5 morning-line favorite for the Dwyer from post 6 while Seahenge is listed at 15-1 from the rail. Ryan Moore rides Mendelssohn and jockey Javier Castellano has the call on Seahenge.
Noble Indy (7-2) breaks from post 4 under John Velazquez while Firenze Fire (6-1) drew the far outside post 7 with Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard.
Later on Belmont’s Stars and Stripes card, My Boy Jack returns to turf in the $1.2 million Belmont Derby Invitational (G1), arriving in New York from the West Coast on Tuesday.
"It seemed like a great spot to make a return," trainer Keith Desormeaux said. "I think it's easier in my own mind to ship cross country and run on the turf instead of the dirt. He's more familiar with that than the sandy surface at Belmont. So, I just thought it was a good spot. I know he's going to love the mile and a quarter and the purse is not too bad.”
My Boy Jack kicked off his career on the grass, recording a trio of seconds in maidens and the Del Mar Juvenile Turf Stakes before scoring his first victory in the Zuma Beach Stakes on Santa Anita Park’s green. He competed against Mendelssohn in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, winding up seventh while beaten only three lengths, but has raced exclusively on dirt in 2018.
Among the Creative Cause sophomore’s efforts this season were a pair of wins in the Southwest Stakes (G3) and Lexington Stakes (G3) and a pair of thirds in the Sham Stakes (G3) and Louisiana Derby (G2). Last out, he rallied from 19th in the Kentucky Derby to be fifth under the wire.
"It was a no brainer to give him a break (after the Derby)," Desormeaux said. "He had three tough races in six weeks. He accomplished a huge goal in getting our group to the Derby and he ran a great race. Instead of continuing on the Triple Crown, we decided to freshen him and obviously concentrate on the second half of the season.
"You would think with his style, he could be more effective on turf. I have confidence in him. That horse is easy to have confidence in because he brings an 'A' race every time. He's just a very nice horse. We're not saying that we're exclusive to the turf now. This is just a great race to set us up for whatever we've got after.
"I think people kind of relate to him too because he's kind of an overachiever," Desormeaux added. "He's a $20,000 yearling. He's a fun horse to hitch your wagon to."
Lining up against My Boy Jack will be eight rivals, including CATHOLIC BOY, who was on the Derby trail but didn’t have enough points to make the race.
My Boy Jack drew the far outside nine post and is listed at 6-1 on the morning line under jockey Kent Desormeaux. Catholic Boy (4-1) is in post 7 with Javier Castellano aboard.