Instead of experiencing his first Kentucky Derby victory, Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien encountered chaos at the sloppy Churchill Downs.
O’Brien’s horse Mendelssohn entered the race with 5-to-1 odds, the second best in the field. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Champion had an impressive 18-length victory in the UAE Derby, his first ever race on dirt. Dirt is one thing; muddy slop is a completely different challenge.
The slop didn’t just surprise the $3 million colt, it surprised his trainer. O’Brien’s first-person account of the event on Racing UK is fascinating.
I’d been before but I have never experienced anything like yesterday. I was a bit shell-shocked.
It was mad. There were so many people, so many cultures, I saw a preacher at one stage.
It’s the crowd of two Cup finals all together. Go into the middle of it – feel it to believe it.
We won’t expect anything different. Ever again.
To compare the event to a European soccer final is quite the compliment, however, I can’t believe O’Brien had never seen a poncho before.
We weren’t prepared for the level of atmosphere. There were around 170,000 people; all wet; all screaming. There was rain coming from everywhere and everyone was drowned.
Everyone had these plastic things on then – I cannot explain it to you. There were people and creatures everywhere and he was mind-blown by the whole thing.
He (Mendelssohn) was upset. He’s only a baby horse and he was a bit slow to learn last year; a little bit whinny. He’s grown up along the way and it would have been a good experience for him.
Mendelssohn did not help any bettors cash tickets. Jockey Ryan Moore pulled up and the horse finished in last, 73 lengths behind Justify. O’Brien did not get his win, but he did get an incredible account of Kentucky Derby 144.