The “Beast from the East,” the Siberian wintry blast that’s canceled several cards across Great Britain and Ireland this week, has forced a postponement of Dundalk’s Kentucky Derby (G1) points race. The listed Patton S., originally scheduled for Friday with a preliminary field that included Aidan O’Brien’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) hero Mendelssohn, has now been transferred to March 9.
The Patton had 12 in the mix at Monday’s early entry stage, but the card hadn’t been drawn by the time Irish racing officials on Wednesday called off Dundalk’s Friday meeting. So it’s not certain how many of O’Brien’s six entrants were actually due to start.
Kempton’s Road to the Kentucky Derby Conditions S. is likewise imperiled on Thursday. An inspection is set for 11 a.m. British time (6 a.m. EST) to decide the fate of the evening card. If the Polytrack meeting is deemed a go-ahead – taking into account both racing surface and safety in traveling to the facility –the Derby scoring race would go off at 2:30 p.m. EST.
***UPDATE: Kempton did indeed cancel Thursday after heavy snow. The Road to the Kentucky Derby Conditions S. has been switched to the March 7 card.***
Since both the Kempton and Dundalk races are part of the inaugural European Road to the Kentucky Derby, offering a berth to the top scorer on that separate leaderboard, it will be intriguing to see how horsemen adjust plans in light of the weather woes. Anyone entered with an eye toward competing in the final European points race, the March 30 Buradon at Newcastle, probably wouldn’t be too inconvenienced.
But if the Patton were viewed as a prep for the March 31 UAE Derby (G2), the compressed time frame may well cause a change in plan.
Mendelssohn is the highest-profile case in point, although fellow O’Brien trainees Seahenge and Threeandfourpence are similarly situated. Thus the master of Ballydoyle has given them all the option of Saturday’s Spring Cup at Lingfield – if that goes forward too. While it’s not a points race, at least the Spring Cup would offer the right timing as a lead-up to the UAE Derby. (But now the O’Brien trio is out of Lingfield too.)
Of course, there’s always the possibility of advancing straight to the UAE Derby without a prep run. That’s typically how O’Brien’s done it in the past, but the European Road gave him fresh options this year, at least until the weather intervened.
A two-prep schedule may be more important for a horse like Mendelssohn, a May 17 foal who was “babyish” last season and eligible to derive greater benefit from the additional experience.