June 23, 2024

Justify in the house for Kentucky Derby: Mendelssohn takes detour through Indianapolis

Likely Kentucky Derby favorite Justify is escorted by longtime Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes (c) Churchill Downs/Coady Photography

Presumptive Kentucky Derby (G1) favorite Justify was among a flurry of arrivals, from all compass points, at Churchill Downs on Monday.

The undefeated Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner was part of the California contingent touching down in early afternoon, including Solomini, his stablemate from the Bob Baffert barn, and the respective second and fourth from the Santa Anita Derby, Mick Ruis’ Bolt d’Oro and the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Instilled Regard. Older horses Hoppertunity, running in Friday’s Alysheba (G2), and champion West Coast, freshening up after his second in the Dubai World Cup (G1), also shipped in for Baffert.

Irish shipper Mendelssohn was scheduled to arrive around 5:30 p.m., but his flight had to take a detour to Indianapolis. According to Daily Racing Form’s Marcus Hersh, a groom did not have the requisite paperwork and therefore needed to go through customs, necessitating the diversion.

Churchill publicity reports that Mendelssohn is accompanied by three fellow Aidan O’Brien trainees slated for Derby Day starts: older horses Deauville and War Decree invade for the Old Forester Turf Classic (G1), while sophomore Threeandfourpence is eyeing the American Turf (G2). Seahenge was initially penciled in for a Louisville trip as well, but he was not explicitly mentioned in Monday’s notes.

Update: Mendelssohn made it to Churchill Downs’ Barn 17 before 10 p.m., Churchill’s Darren Rogers tweeted.

Here is how his journey started from Ballydoyle early Monday morning:

Arriving by van Monday morning were Enticed, who drove in from Florida with Kentucky Oaks (G1)-bound Take Charge Paula, and New York-based Firenze Fire.

Enticed and Take Charge Paula’s trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, revealed that the filly will take advantage of the training session reserved exclusively for Derby and Oaks contenders. But Enticed will train later in the morning for a very practical reason.

“Enticed will gallop the next four days, but he will go out at 9 (a.m.) because we only have one (exercise) rider,” McLaughlin said.

Firenze Fire’s owner/breeder Ron Lombardi checked in on his homebred and reported that he appeared to travel well.

“He’s bright and alert. It looks like he had a good trip.

“It’s a dream come true,” Lombardi said of his first Derby. “Since I got into horse racing, it’s been my goal to make it to the Derby. I never thought it would happen, especially with a homebred. That’s what’s amazing.

“I’m going back to (sire) Poseidon’s Warrior with My Every Wish to see if I can strike lightning twice,” Lombardi added regarding Firenze Fire’s parents.