March 28, 2023

Kentucky Derby contender Mendelssohn has first day on track; Midnight Bisou stretches legs for Oaks

Mendelssohn cut a dashing figure on the Downs (c) Jamie Newell/

Fresh from clearing quarantine, Irish shipper Mendelssohn took his first tour of the Churchill Downs track Thursday morning. The Kentucky Derby (G1) contender went out in concert with fellow Aidan O’Brien trainees Threeandfourpence, Seahenge, and Deauville, a trio bound for races on the Derby undercard.

“He did a very gentle exercise around the track,” traveling head lad Pat Keating said of the walk and clockwise jog over 1 1/4 miles followed by a one-mile canter going the right way.

Mendelssohn was hollering — typical for him — and got a bit sweaty, but that is a good sign for O’Brien. The Ballydoyle maestro has said in the past that he likes them to sweat particularly on their first day out from quarantine, so it would have been a concern if he had not.

“They’re all doing well and all shipped in good,” Keating noted. “We just wanted to get him out there and stretch his legs. We’re very happy with him and there were no problems. We couldn’t be happier with how he’s doing, so we just need some good luck on Saturday.

“He’s a very good horse. He’s a good traveler and handles it perfect; very straightforward. He handles it a lot better than I do.”

Threeandfourpence leads stablemates Seahenge, Mendelssohn, and Deauville (rear guard) (c) Jamie Newell/

Mendelssohn has shipped stateside before when capturing last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). Fellow sophomores Threeandfourpence and Seahenge are racing here for the first time but are no strangers to travel. They tagged along with Mendelssohn for his conquest of the UAE Derby (G2), where Seahenge got up for fifth, and Threeandfourpence was a tailed-off last. Seahenge stays on dirt but shortens up for the Pat Day Mile (G3), and Threeandfourpence logically reverts to grass for the American Turf (G2).

The five-year-old Deauville, set for the Old Forester Turf Classic (G1), is now on his fifth trip to North America. Hero of the 2016 Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) and third in the past two runnings of the Arlington Million (G1), he was not suited by how the Woodbine Mile (G1) panned out and he checked in 11th. The son of Galileo warmed up with a second in the April 18 Earl of Sefton (G3) at Newmarket.

O’Brien will be trackside Friday morning.

Thursday’s other notable activity came from Kentucky Oaks (G1) contender Midnight Bisou, who galloped 1 3/4 miles and opened up down the stretch.

“She went well today,” exercise rider Jesus Camacho said. “She was more relaxed. The last part of the gallop we went ‘open’ and she felt like she was doing :13s to me for the last three eighths.”

Camacho’s internal clock was on target, for Churchill clockers timed her in :26.60 for her final quarter-mile.

Tabbed as one of the favorites for the Oaks along with Monomoy Girl, Midnight Bisou brings a hat trick comprising the Santa Ynez (G2), Santa Ysabel (G3), and Santa Anita Oaks (G1).


If you missed any of the morning works shows from Churchill Downs since April 23, the archive is available on the Kentucky Derby website along with individual videos of the contenders.

Friday’s morning training session for Derby and Oaks runners will be a couple of hours earlier, during the 5:45-6 a.m. (EDT) window.