The European Road to the Kentucky Derby continues on March 9th with the Patton Stakes at Dundalk in Great Britain, though there’s no denying that the race is quite unlike the majority of Derby prep races held in the United States.
Contested at a mile over a synthetic course, the Patton Stakes has attracted eight starters, and in terms of accomplishments the three colts conditioned by Europe’s leading trainer Aidan O’Brien—#1 Mendelssohn, #2 Seahenge, and #4 Threeandfourpence—absolutely tower over their rivals.
Even the most casual racing fans should be familiar with Mendelssohn, who parlayed a perfect trip into a clear win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. I) last fall at Del Mar. He hasn’t run since then and will be making his debut over a synthetic track, but Mendelssohn boasts a couple of 115 Racing Post Ratings that give him an edge over his rivals, and as a half-brother to the four-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder (who ran well on both dirt and synthetic tracks), the surface switch shouldn’t be a major issue.
Seahenge and Threeandfourpence have also run reasonably well at the Group 1 level, with the former finishing third in the seven-furlong Darley Dewhurst Stakes (Eng-I) at Newmarket (earning a 109 Racing Post Rating) and the latter coming home fourth in the same race, just a neck behind his stablemate. Like Mendelssohn, they will be running over a synthetic track for the first time, but they have pedigrees that suggest they can handle the change. Seahenge in particular could be a good fit for Dundalk, considering that his sire is Scat Daddy (whose progeny are known for their versatility) and his broodmare sire is Not For Love, best known as the broodmare sire of 2014 Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome, who performed well on synthetic tracks during his career.
The other five entrants have yet to earn a Racing Post Rating higher than 88, though four of them enter the Patton off of victories at Dundalk. The best of them might be the filly #6 Blackgold Fairy, who cruised to an easy 6 ½-length maiden win over this course and distance on February 23rd, a sharp improvement off her November debut. #7 Princess Yaiza, a perfect 2-for-2 at Dundalk, could be another filly with a chance to finish on the board at a bit of a price.
Since Mendelssohn has the best overall form and is definitely targeting a run in the Kentucky Derby, I’ll take a shot at singling him on top of two trifectas and hope that he prevails at short odds.
$3 trifecta: 1 with 2,4 with 2,4 ($6)
$2 trifecta: 1 with 2,4,6,7 with 2,4,6,7 ($24)