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Mendelssohn underlines dam’s elite status

Mendelssohn following his maiden win at the Curragh; he is one of 3 G1 winners out of his dam, Leslie’s Lady

ONE of the wonderful things about this sport are the wide range of opinions it inspires. For as long as the game has been around, breeders have taken varying approaches to the production of stock and indeed there today remains no set recipe for success.

To some breeders, little is more important in a broodmare prospect than pedigree, an approach that has yielded a number of outfits with major rewards. Others, however, will happily take race record over pedigree. The ultimate, of course, is the combination of pedigree and race record, but that, obviously, is something which invariably requires deep pockets.

The $100,000 paid for Leslie’s Lady by Clarkland Farm out of the estate of James T. Hines Jr at Keeneland in 2006 can be regarded as a bargain in light of her subsequent achievements at stud. But then while she was a hardy stakes winner herself, she was also a daughter of the nondescript Tricky Creek from a family light on Graded stakes winners. Indeed, she sold for only $8,000 as a foal and latterly with those stakes performances in the bag, became just one of only two horses by Tricky Creek, then at stud in New Mexico, to sell for six figures at Keeneland in a 17-year period when she came up for auction in 2006.

Since then, Leslie’s Lady has made her own pedigree in no uncertain style. The yearling at the time of her sale turned out to be Grade 1 winner Into Mischief. Five years later, she foaled Beholder, an iconic American mare who won no fewer than 11 Grade 1 races including three Breeders’ Cup events. And now, Leslie’s Lady has assumed centre stage yet again, this time as the dam of $3 million yearling Mendelssohn, whose rapid ascent for Aidan O’Brien took in a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf prior to a spectacular win in the UAE Derby at Meydan.

Unsurprisingly, Mendelssohn heads as one of the favourites into Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, a race in which Into Mischief is also represented as the sire of Audible.

The Derby field also pays immense tribute to the much missed Coolmore stallion Scat Daddy, who died in late 2015. The son of Johannesburg fields no fewer than four of the race’s starters – namely the brilliant Justify, versatile Flameaway and Combatant in addition to Mendelssohn – while promising to be also represented in the same day’s 2,000 Guineas by Murillo. They are from the penultimate crop of 161 foals by his sire, which also includes Sioux Nation, Seahenge, American Grade 3 winner Seabhac and the highly regarded lightly raced European pair Kings Shield and Glendevon.

Although Scat Daddy’s fee for 2016 had been set at $100,000 just weeks before his death, he never actually stood for more than $35,000. Therefore, it’s more than likely that Leslie’s Lady was one of the best, if not the best, mare that he covered during his nine seasons at Ashford Stud.

The hunt to find an heir to Scat Daddy is currently at full pitch, with Caravaggio and El Kabeir available to European breeders in 2018 alongside No Nay Never, for whom crunch time has arrived. However, Mendelssohn’s page along with his good looks and $3 million price tag, arguably makes him the most appealing prospect to further Scat Daddy’s sire line down the line, especially as he promises to be effective on dirt as well as turf. Surprisingly, there is only one son of Scat Daddy at stud in Kentucky in Crestwood Farm’s Tu Brutus.

Into Mischief, the first star out of Leslie’s Lady, had a brief six-race career but it was a productive one, comprising wins in the CashCall Futurity at two and Damascus Stakes at three alongside runner-up efforts in the Malibu Stakes and San Vicente Stakes. He retired to Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky in 2009 and like another son of Harlan’s Holiday in Majesticperfection, swiftly made his presence felt, siring Grade 1 winner Goldencents and Grade 2 winner Vyjack out of a first crop of just 46 foals bred off a fee of $10,000.

Today, with Grade 1 winner Practical Joke among his other high-profile runners, the situation is very different. Practical Joke hails from his first big crop of 168 foals bred off the back of the success of his first crop in 2014 and the stallion has remained one of America’s busiest since then, covering 157, 161, 179 and 235 mares in the past four seasons.

With three sons based in Kentucky for 2018 in Practical Joke (Ashford Stud), Goldencents (Spendthrift) and Grade 3 winner Can The Man (Spendthrift), Into Mischief already has a strong shot of establishing his own legacy. Little, though, can match the standing assumed within the sport of Leslie’s Lady foal of 2010, Beholder. The mighty mare won 18 of her 26 starts and approximately $6.2 million in prize-money for Richard Mandella including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, Santa Anita Oaks, Pacific Classic, two renewals of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and three renewals of the Zenyatta Stakes. The majority of those races were won with a degree of dominance but she is arguably best remembered for her titanic and ultimately successful struggle over Songbird in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

Beholder’s career underlined Leslie’s Lady’s status as an elite mare, not least because she was a daughter of a distinctly average Henny Hughes. The  son of Hennessy spent his first four seasons standing for $40,000 to $25,000 for Darley, yet sired just seven Graded stakes winners in North America before his dispatch to Japan. Beholder is his only North American Grade 1 winner.

Given Leslie’s Lady’s success with the Hennessy line, it’s easy to see how Clarkland Farm settled on Scat Daddy as the mare’s choice for the 2014 season. And they have duly been rewarded by Mendelssohn.

While Beholder stayed up to 1m2f effectively, Leslie’s Lady was a different animal, landing her finest victory over 6 furlongs when successful in the Hoosier Debutante Stakes at Hoosier Park. One of 16 stakes winners by Tricky Creek, she was a half-sister to another dirt sprinter in A Steel Trap, who was stakes-placed at minor stakes level, and out of Crystal Lady, a winning Stop The Music half-sister to minor American stakes winners Melanyhasthepapers and Malcoha.

Leslie’s Lady is responsible for the only Graded stakes winners within the first two generations of her family although her third dam, Last Bird, bred Roanoke, winner of the 1991 Grade 1 Californian Stakes, and features as the fourth dam of 2012 Kentucky Derby hero I’ll Have Another. Meanwhile her fourth dam Patelin won the 1970 Grade 1 Selima Stakes for George D. Widener and is also the ancestress of Grade 1 winners A Phenomenon, Seattle Meteor, Marsh Side, Changeintheweather, Class Play and Pleasant Stage, who secured her own slice of Breeders’ Cup history back in 1991 when successful in the Juvenile Fillies.

The mare is rising 22-years-old but her story is far from over for Clarkland with her 2017 colt by Medaglia d’Oro to look forward to as well as a colt foal by American Pharoah.

As for Mendelssohn himself, there is the very real possibility of yet further improvement in light of his late foaling date.

Mendelssohn was born on May 17, meaning that he is lining up days short of his actual third birthday. Of course, a foaling date of May 27 didn’t stop Northern Dancer while another seven May-foaled colts have struck in the race since then including Thunder Gulch, the 1995 hero who was foaled as late as May 23.

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