Aidan O’Brien was at Churchill Downs on Friday morning to oversee Mendelssohn’s final preparations for the 144th Kentucky Derby on Saturday.
The three-year-old will bid to become the first European-trained horse in history to win the ‘Run for the Roses’ and appears to hold strong claims following a scintillating display in the UAE Derby on the dirt at Meydan last month.
O’Brien has long thought the American-bred colt could be a contender for America’s most famous race and was pleased after seeing his youngster enjoy a spin on the track under former Champion Hurdle-winning jockey Dean Gallagher.
O’Brien said: “He had a canter (on Thursday) and just did it a little bit quicker today (Friday), but really it was just showing him round the place and showing him the track.
“He has an unbelievable pedigree for this part of the world. I’m not qualified enough to talk about dirt, but Dean rode him and was very happy with how he went over the surface.”
Observers at Churchill Downs have remarked how much noise Mendelssohn has been making prior to his work, but O’Brien is unconcerned.
He added: “He has a big personality. We always try to encourage horses to develop a personality and he has developed a big one.
“Even though he’s vocal and he cries out and calls to horses, he isn’t coltish. It’s more of a mental thing than anything and when we put the blinkers on him it totally focused his mind.”
Mendelssohn travelled to America to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at the end of his two-year-old campaign and made a successful reappearance on the all-weather at Dundalk before his demolition job in Dubai.
“We’ve been very happy with him since Dubai. We haven’t overdone him and we think he’s here fresh,” O’Brien told www.bloodhorse.com.
“The lads always felt he could be a Kentucky Derby horse. We felt he was a horse that had a chance of acting on the dirt.
“For us he has progressed nicely and he’s passed the tests we’ve asked of him so far. That’s why we’re here today.”
Asked what it mean to him to win the Kentucky Derby, O’Brien said: “It would be something that we couldn’t really dream of.
“We feel so privileged to be here, to have a horse here and be able to compete.
“I usually watch the race on television. It’s an incredible race, an incredible race and incredible culture here.”
Ryan Moore travels to ride Mendelssohn, giving up the chance to win the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket for a third time.
The pair blitzed their rivals from the front in Dubai, but O’Brien is unsure whether he will be able to employ such forceful tactics this weekend.
He said: “I would imagine that he’ll be some way forward. I haven’t spoken to Ryan and Ryan will always decide.
“I think there’s pace on his inside. He made the running in Meydan but I wouldn’t be sure that’ll make it here. That will be Ryan’s decision when the gates open.”