March 20, 2019

Mendelssohn returns in Cigar Mile; Marley’s Freedom tops Go for Wand

Mendelssohn will try to enhance his Kentucky Derby credentials (Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos)

In search of an elusive Grade 1 win on dirt, the three-year-old Mendelssohn will make his sixth transatlantic trip of the season from Ireland for Saturday’s $750,000 Cigar Mile H. (G1) at Aqueduct.

Winner at the top level in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) last season, the half-brother to four-time champion mare Beholder emerged as a leading Kentucky Derby (G1) prospect for Coolmore with an 18 1/2-length procession in the U.A.E. Derby (G2). However, he trailed the field of 20 in the season’s first classic after a hideously rough trip.

Mendelssohn has fared better in four tries since, but has had to settle for minor checks in the Dwyer (G3), Travers (G1), Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), and Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

“We were delighted with his run in the Classic,” trainer Aidan O’Brien said of Mendelssohn’s fifth-place effort, where he finished four lengths behind Accelerate. “And we’re very happy with his work since.”

Patternrecognition bypassed the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) after a one-length win in the Kelso H. (G2) in September over returning rivals Sunny Ridge and stablemate Timeline. He’s won his two previous attempts over the Aqueduct strip by a combined margin of 10 1/2 lengths.

“He does like Aqueduct and it’s part of the reason we pointed to this race,” trainer Chad Brown said.

The lightly-raced Copper Town tries stakes company for the first time Saturday. Sidelined for a year following a 6 1/4-length allowance win over Patternrecognition in October 2017, he returned to action October 13 at Keeneland and drummed second-level allowance rivals by five lengths.

Also of note are True Timber, who defeated Patternrecognition in a Belmont Park allowance in June and most recently finished a distant second in the Bold Ruler (G3), and New York-bred star Pat On the Back, who captured the Empire Classic last out.

Still in the hunt for an Eclipse Award despite a narrow loss as a heavy favorite in last month’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1), Marley’s Freedom looks to end her season on a better note, and possibly earn additional support at the polls, in the $250,000 Go for Wand H. (G3) over one mile.

Breaking from post 13 at Churchill Downs, Marley’s Freedom endured a wide trip in the Filly & Mare Sprint and, while she got within a half-length at the wire, was never a serious win threat. That snapped a three-stakes winning streak since she joined the Bob Baffert barn last spring. She won as the favorite in the Desert Stormer (G3), Great Lady M. (G2), and Ballerina (G1).

“She’s come out of her Breeders’ Cup race well,” Baffert said. “She drew outside that day when inside was the place to be. I really wish I had given her a prep going into that race, but she’s been training well since then. I’ve been wanting to stretch her out in distance because she’s bred to run all day, but the one-turn mile should really suit her.”

Looking to post an upset are Ruffian (G2) winner Pacific Wind, third in the Spinster (G1) last out; Gallant Bloom H. (G2) runner-up Your Love; Empire Distaff heroine Bonita Bianca; and multiple stakes winner Sower.