Aidan O’Brien has won three of the five runnings of the Patton S. at Dundalk, and despite a change in race conditions to fit its role on the inaugural European Road to the Kentucky Derby (G1), Friday’s renewal is likely to continue the trend. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) winner Mendelssohn spearheads a three-pronged Ballydoyle entry of Triple Crown nominees, including Champagne (G2) victor Seahenge and promising Threeandfourpence, all making their debuts on synthetic.
Formerly a seven-furlong contest in early-to-mid April, the Patton has been extended to a mile and moved up on the calendar. It has the same points structure – 20-8-4-2 – as Wednesday’s Road to the Kentucky Derby Conditions S. at Kempton, also held at a mile on Polytrack. Gronkowski captured that to take over temporary leadership of the European standings, but the Patton winner will have something to say about that.
Mendelssohn, the $3 million Scat Daddy half-brother to Beholder and Into Mischief, is the odds-on favorite as the clear form choice. A different proposition since donning blinkers, he was a bang-up second to stablemate U S Navy Flag in the Dewhurst (G1) on the way to Breeders’ Cup glory at Del Mar. The Juvenile Turf has already had a pronounced effect in the U.S. preps, with also-rans Catholic Boy, Flameaway, My Boy Jack, and Snapper Sinclair all making their presence felt substantially on the Derby points chase.
Ryan Moore will be back aboard as Mendelssohn breaks from the rail in the Patton. His performance is likely to influence his odds in Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, where he’ll open as a 30-1 chance on Friday. Pending what transpires at Dundalk, Mendelssohn is expected to advance to the March 31 UAE Derby (G2) on Dubai World Cup night. His confreres are likewise in the discussion for Dubai.
Seahenge and Threeandfourpence, respectively third and fourth behind U S Navy Flag and Mendelssohn in the Dewhurst, have some claim to do better here. While Seahenge endured a trouble trip from the start, Threeandfourpence didn’t have the clearest of passages either in his first try out of maiden company.
Before Mendelssohn woke up in the blinkers, Seahenge had left him back in last when getting up in time in the Champagne. A pricey son of Scat Daddy himself as a $750,000 Keeneland September yearling, Seahenge scored in his unveiling at Naas and wasn’t disgraced in fifth to hotpot Expert Eye in the Vintage (G2) at Glorious Goodwood. His only other subpar run, an eighth in the October 28 Racing Post Trophy (G1) last time out, can be chalked up to wheeling back on two weeks’ rest, and on softish ground that may have been more of a factor than in the Champagne over the same Doncaster course. Donnacha O’Brien retains the mount on Seahenge, and Seamie Heffernan renews his partnership with Threeandfourpence.
Threeandfourpence, second in a productive Curragh maiden in his debut, duly got the job done next time at Fairyhouse. Following his encouraging effort in the Dewhurst, the full brother to 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Hit It a Bomb and European highweight two-year-old filly Brave Anna was sent to Saint-Cloud for the Criterium International (G1). Threeandfourpence never got the chance to run, with the October 29 card scrapped by an on-track protest. Now he’ll try to do what his famous siblings couldn’t – win a race at three. In his favor is the fact that as a May foal, he was unfurnished as a juvenile and eligible to improve physically this season.
The other five entrants, all proven on the Polytrack, are meeting Group performers for the first time. Not surprisingly, they are not Triple Crown-nominated.
But there is a classic hopeful among them – Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) entry Zihba, who created a terrific impression when landing his debut here for Fozzy Stack. Given an outside stalking trip, the son of Choisir displayed an efficient action to draw away with only a couple of smacks for encouragement, and mostly a hand ride. From the family of Dream Ahead, Zihba can make his mark at a higher level.
Zihba’s maiden form ties in with that of Joseph O’Brien’s Ship of Dreams, a Qatar Racing colorbearer and one of a trio of fillies in the Patton. Third in her Dundalk unveiling despite being stacked out wide on the far turn, Ship of Dreams came back to break her maiden versus males. She was part of a three-way pace scrum, in tight between foes, but held her position well and kicked on to overturn Godolphin’s odds-on Port Lions, who was previously runner-up to Zihba. By Lope de Vega and from the family of Shirocco, Ship of Dreams has more appeal than her maiden stablemate Irish Minister. That Calumet Farm homebred hasn’t opened his account after three tries on this track, and in his latest, he had every chance, and just got nailed by a gambled-on firster in Editorial.
Blackgold Fairy, deemed a stakes-caliber type by trainer Mick Halford, certainly vindicated that idea with a resounding maiden win at this track and trip. Drawn in post 12 of 14, the More Than Ready filly flashed good speed and left the rest toiling in a front-running romp. Blackgold Fairy is the likeliest to benefit from the Patton’s postponement from March 2 due to the wintry blast, giving her an extra week to recover from her February 23 exertions. Pat Smullen has the return call aboard the granddaughter of Islington.
Princess Yaiza makes her stakes debut for new owner Lindsay Laroche, earning a change of silks after winning both of her starts at Dundalk. Still in the care of Gavin Cromwell, the daughter of Casamento got going late to outfinish odds-on Elegant Drama in a fillies’ maiden, and next beat the consistent War Hero among the boys in a nursery. Princess Yaiza won’t win style points, but she keeps finding more and should enjoy the step up to a mile. The class level, however, is a different order of magnitude.
The fillies carry 124 pounds in the Patton, receiving a 10-pound concession from Mendelssohn and Seahenge and five pounds from the other males.
The Patton is scheduled to go off at 2:30 p.m. (EST), and you can watch and wager on TwinSpires.com.