Returning to the scene of the crime


Saturday’s Jockey Club Gold Cup (referred to endlessly as the Jockey Gold Cup by lazy speakers) features two horses that experienced extreme difficulty in their respective Kentucky Derby tries in 2017 and 2018.  And with the goal for both being the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in November, a Breeders’ Cup appearance would offer something of a chance at redemption.

Thunder Snow and Mendelssohn, in addition to having the aforementioned Kentucky Derby flops in common, also share the title of UAE Derby winner.  Both used that race as a prep for the Kentucky Derby, and both received wagering support at Churchill Downs.  But for both Thunder Snow and Mendelssohn, the Kentucky Derby was over just as quickly as it began, and bettors had every right to feel like they were robbed of a shot at cashing a winning ticket.  First, Thunder Snow…

Thunder Snow is the one way in the back doing his best impression of a bucking bronco just mere yards out of the gate.  There was no injury.  Word is he hated the slop hitting his belly.  Whatever the reason, he was pulled out of the race before the field made it to the clubhouse turn.  Now, Mendelssohn…

This picture doesn’t do it justice, but he’s third from the right in this still shot from the Derby replay, and he’s in the process of being bounced around like a pinball between two horses.  He, like Thunder Snow, was effectively eliminated at the start.

Their Derby running lines don’t represent the overall ability or accomplishments of either horse.  Thunder Snow has two Group 1 wins since his Derby try, most notably his win in the Dubai World Cup last March.  Mendelssohn ran very solid 2nd in the Travers last month.  But it’s worth noting that each horse, on paper, is arguably better on grass than dirt.  Yet the human connections continue to try and get that elusive big American dirt win for both.  In the case of Mendelssohn, it seems like the Coolmore folks have been trying to get that big dirt win for a very long time.  Honestly the only one I can remember them actually winning with is Johannesburg in the 2001 BC Juvenile.  If there is another I am forgetting, please remind me.  But as for Godolphin, they’ve won big dirt races over here plenty of times.  And even if you believe that Thunder Snow’s Dubai World Cup win was a product of the rail bias (the same one Mendelssohn benefitted from), you have to admit that it seems Godolphin isn’t quite so sure.  So both are here, in America, running on the dirt as a prep for our richest dirt race (The Pegasus doesn’t count).

As for Saturday’s Jockey Club Gold Cup, it should be a fun race to watch.  We’ll discuss betting later in the week.  But regardless of where, if anywhere, our money lands, we’ll be watching closely.  I hope both Thunder Snow and Mendelssohn make it back to Louisville for a shot at redemption.


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