It takes a special broodmare to produce two Group/Grade 1 winners at stud and an exceptional one to get three or more, especially when they are by different stallions. When Mendelssohn (by Scat Daddy) took the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar in early November his dam, Leslie's Lady (by Tricky Creek), joined that elite club.
Her first one was Into Mischief (by Harlan's Holiday), a lightly raced horse who won the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity at two and was a Grade 1-placed stakes winner at three, after which he took up stallion duties at Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky. His 32 stakes winners, to date, include the multiple Grade 1 stars Goldencents and Practical Joke.
His first foals arrived in 2010, which was also the year that his half-sister Beholder (by Henny Hughes) was born. A Grade 1 star in each of five seasons on the track and an Eclipse Award winner in four of them, she was one of the most brilliant US racemares of the modern era, eventually retiring to stud the winner of 18 races from 26 starts and over $6.1 million in prize money.
Her final run resulted in a nose defeat of the equally brilliant Songbird in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Distaff at Santa Anita, 364 days before Mendelssohn's top win, and her first foal was born on January 23rd of this year – a bay Uncle Mo (by Indian Charlie) colt.
As for six-furlong juvenile listed scorer Leslie's Lady, she had a Medaglia d'Oro (by El Prado) colt in 2017 and then went in foal to Triple Crown hero American Pharoah (by Pioneer Ofthe Nile).
Into Mischief was his dam's third foal, Beholder her eighth, and her latest star number 11, and both of the latter pair were bred by Clarkland Farm in Kentucky.
There are a few other stakes winners to be found within the first four generations of the pedigree, and some horses who notched up double-digit tallies of wins on the track, but the most notable is Roanoke (by Pleasant Colony), whose half-sister One Last Bird (by One For All) is the stakes-placed third dam of Mendelssohn.
He was a wide-margin winner of the Grade 2 Young America Stakes over eight and a half furlongs as a juvenile, added a mile listed race from nine starts at three, and then took the Grade 1 Californian Stakes over nine furlongs at four, beating Anshan and Marquetry, before going on to sire some stakes and graded winners at stud.
Mendelssohn is owned by the Coolmore team, trained in Ireland by Aidan O'Brien, and he is a $3,000,000 graduate of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. There was plenty of interest when he made his debut in a seven-furlong Curragh maiden in July, but he finished a well-beaten eighth. Next time, however, he took a mile maiden by a length at the same venue.
This was still a long way off pattern-level form and although it was not a huge surprise that he was beaten in the Group 2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster a month later, it was disappointing to see him finish a long way last while his stable companion Seahenge took the honours.
Blinkers were fitted when he reappeared at Newmarket four weeks after that, he was sent off as a 50/1 longshot, but for the first time showed his real potential. In what was a remarkable one-two-three-four for the Ballydoyle team, he chased home two-and-a-half-length winner U S Navy Flag, and had old rival Seahenge the same distance back in third. Threeandfourpence, a head behind in fourth, completed the clean sweep.
When a seemingly exposed longshot produces such an effort it tends to be treated with some suspicion. Perhaps this was one of those performance-of-a-lifetime efforts that do not get repeated, perhaps the form was unreliable, or perhaps this was a colt who was finally beginning to come into his own.
His one-length defeat of Untamed Domain at Del Mar a few weeks later announced it to be the latter. A tilt at the Group 1 2000 Guineas and Group 1 Irish 2000 Guineas double would be the usual likely route for a leading turf two-year-old that stayed beyond six furlongs but it could be at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May when he makes his first classic bid.
O'Brien pointed out the dirt aspect of his pedigree in post-race interviews and indicated that early-season trials on the all-weather tracks in Europe could determine his target, with the Kentucky Derby very much on the cards.
Dermot Weld sent Moyglare Stud's homebred Go And Go from Ireland to New York to record an historic victory in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes back in 1990, but the closest that any European has come to lifting the Derby is when Clive Brittain shipped Bold Arrangement from England to Kentucky to chase home Ferdinand in the 1986 edition of the classic.
Mendelssohn and his star siblings are all by stallions who represent the Storm Cat (by Storm Bird) line and, in Europe, his late sire is typically associated with being a source of speed and precocity. That's because Scat Daddy's (by Johannesburg) best-known runners here feature the sprinters Acapulco, Caravaggio, Lady Aurelia and No Nay Never, as well as last year's Group 1 Phoenix Stakes scorer Sioux Nation.
Of course, in South America he was a premier source of classic winners, while in North America his best tend to excel in the seven to 10-furlong range. And this, combined with the fact that his most closely related sibling – Beholder – was a runaway winner of the Grade 1 Pacific Classic over 10 furlongs, suggests that the Kentucky Derby distance is unlikely to be a problem for him.
It is worth noting, however, that he was born on May 17th, 2015 so he will not have reached his physical third birthday until two days before the Preakness Stakes.
The surface, of course, is still an unknown until he tries it, but he is bred for it and it could turn out that what he has achieved on turf is a bonus. Only time will tell, but if this colt lives up to his pedigree and promise then he could become one of the major players of 2018, before eventually going on to what could be – given his half-brother's success – a notable career at stud.
It is hard to know the merit of the form, but on visual impression Gold Town appears to be a young horse with a big future. Godolphin's homebred three-year-old is trained by Charlie Appleby, he has run twice at Meydan this year, both on dirt, and been highly impressive each time.
The first of those outings came in a seven-furlong conditions race, which he took by four and a quarter lengths, and the second was Thursday's Group 3 UAE 2000 Guineas over a mile, which he took by a 10 and a half-length margin.
The nine and a half-furlong, Group 2 UAE Derby is an obvious next target for him and, after that, perhaps some of the leading events for the classic generation. But where? He is a gelding and that excludes him from the European Group 1 classics, so this exciting prospect could become a candidate for the US Triple Crown series.
He was gelded after the third consecutive defeat that followed a debut success over five furlongs at Newbury last year, then finished third in a seven-furlong Newmarket nursery in July before taking a similar contest over the same course and distance a month later. His pattern victory appears to be a massive step forward on all of this.
Gold Town is a son of the late Street Cry (by Machiavellian), the Group 1 Dubai World Cup winner who stood in Kentucky, shuttled to Australia – where he was crowned champion sire – and whose offspring include top sprinters and milers, a Kentucky Derby hero in Street Sense and, of course, two of the greatest fillies of the modern era: Winx and Zenyatta.
He is the second foal of Pimpernel (by Invincible Spirit) who won four times in England as a two-year-old, including the Listed Radley Stakes at Newbury, and was second in the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes.
Her dam, Anna Pallida (by Sadler's Wells), got her sole victory over 10 furlongs and as she is a daughter of three-time scorer Masskana (by Darshaan) it was always on the cards that she could become the ancestor of some high-class performers. Why? Because that mare is one of those rare gems with at least three individual Group/Grade 1-winning offspring to her name.
Eagle Mountain (by Rock Of Gibraltar) won the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin and was placed in each of the Group 1 Derby at Epsom, Group 1 Irish Derby at the Curragh, Group 1 Champion Stakes at Newmarket, and Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita.
His half-sister Dank (by Dansili) won both the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf and the Grade 1 Beverly D Stakes, while Sulk (by Selkirk) took the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac at two before going on to earn placings in the Nassau Stakes, Yorkshire Oaks and Prix Royal-Oak – all Group 1.
Sulk is the dam of the Group 2-placed stakes winner Ibn Battuta (by Seeking The Gold), while her unraced full-sister Slink is responsible for Bye Bye Birdie (by Oasis Dream), winner of the Group 3 Grangecon Stud Balanchine Stakes over six furlongs at the Curragh as a two-year-old.
Masskana, who is also the dam of the pattern-placed stakes winner Wallace (by Royal Academy), is a half-sister to Grade 1-placed US Grade 3 scorer Madjaristan (by Irish River) and to Massyar (by Kahyasi), who won the Group 2 Gallinule Stakes at the Curragh a few weeks after finishing third to Barathea in the Group 1 Irish 2000 Guineas.
The fourth dam of Gold Town is, therefore, Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas), Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac and Group 1 Prix Robert Papin heroine Masarika (by Thatch).
It remains to be seen just how good Gold Town will be when he reaches his peak, but there is every reason to hope that he can succeed at the highest level. That may come on dirt and at anywhere from a mile to 10 furlongs – and the Belmont Stakes trip may not be beyond his reach – but it is also going to be interesting to see how he fares if returning to turf.