By Patrycja Szpyra
It's not a too common occurrence for sales-topping purchases to make it on the track despite the world of promise their pedigree, physical, and connections might imply. Further out still is the extraordinary feat of reproducing themselves or–at the very least–producing several runners of equitable talent between them, though stallions have the task on significantly easier asking than do the fillies and mares. Mendelssohn is patiently inching closer to changing that outlook and his Del Mar winner from last Saturday proves the stallion can get a promising runner at any budget; one of the most potent qualities a sire could have, especially early in their career.
Classical Cat (Mendelssohn–Conquest Strate Up, by Not Bourbon) streaked home on debut a gutsy 2 1/2-length winner for Michael House and conditioner Philip D'Amato, in a race under keen observation admittedly more for who finished behind him–this year's $3.55 million Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in Training topper, Hejazi (Bernardini).
Himself a modest $65,000 purchase at Keeneland September last year by a friend of House, the Mendelssohn colt needed some early correction after the break, but once he was given a target and his cue to strike the lead, Classical Cat would not be stopped. For House, it was quite the thrill to see his horse put his best foot forward right at first asking.
“It sure was fun…we were telling [Classical Cat] all week that he cost $5 million so he wouldn't feel bad,” House joked, on his way to the barn when the call went through Monday. “[Philip D'Amato] was very positive and confident in him. He'd been doing everything right. He wasn't too worried about the other competition, probably not as much as we were.”
Classical Cat wasn't the only runner House had that day, either. Across the country at Saratoga, his co-owned filly Nest (Curlin) put on a masterclass in the GI Alabama S. and all but began the process of etching her name onto the plaque for the divisional title. House admitted that, while they'd wanted to go, the lure of seeing their horses at Del Mar–where they were conveniently close for himself and his wife–proved too strong, and they'd stayed home to see their local runners on the card.
“We'd flown out before to see her run, but we had so many entries that day. So, we saw her on tv before our horses ran here.”
On the end of the call, and clearly ready to head out with his bag of carrots, House quickly included that, while his colt wasn't displaying his sire's liking of loudly announcing his presence at every opportunity, there was a strong trait he liked.
“He's the sweetest guy in the barn. He's got the sweetest disposition. We've been babying him,” House said. “[Classical Cat] is a big, good looking colt…Mendelssohn was a great racehorse himself and now he's starting to show it as a sire.”
Said sire (by Scat Daddy) bucked the trend of multi-million dollar auction horses never quite reaching their full potential. The $3 million KEESEP topper in 2016–the same sale which yielded Triple Crown hero Justify (Scat Daddy) and MGISW Good Magic (Curlin), to name a couple–earned over $2.5 million in his career, crowned by victories in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf and G2 U. A. E. Derby. The latter was an 18 1/2-length romp as his final prep for the GI Kentucky Derby, where he was eased to last after being banged around. He went on to hit the board in the GII Dwyer, GI Runhappy Travers, and GI Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes before calling it a career after placing fifth in the GI Breeders' Cup Classic and fourth in the GI Cigar Mile.
Retired to stud for 2019, Mendelssohn came armed with one of the best female families in the Stud Book as a son of the venerable Leslie's Lady (Tricky Creek), making him a half-sibling to Hall of Famer Beholder (Henny Hughes) and now three-time reigning champion general sire, Into Mischief (Harlan's Holiday).
Well-received in the ring, his offspring got off to a quiet initial start with several hitting the board over every surface–from the all-weather at Woodbine to French turf courses and the Saratoga main track–but none were getting their picture taken. Then, once the parade of debut winners began, the performances got better and flashier with a 'TDN Rising Star' among them.
Pink Hue showed grit and heart in her unveiling over a route of ground on the grass, becoming Mendelssohn's seventh individual winner at that point, but his first and for now only, to receive the nod from the TDN. A $310,000 KEESEP grad, purchased by Mike Ryan as agent for e Five Racing, the filly has an Into Mischief-sired, winning older sibling named Man of Promise, who annexed the G3 Emirates Skycargo Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint as well as placing third in the G1 Azizi Developments Al Quoz Sprint. Her dam, a Speightstown mare named Involved, is a half-sister to GIII Bay Shore victor Skip to the Stone (Skip Trial) and the stakes-placed stakes producer My Heavenly Sign (Forest Camp).
As of this running, Mendelssohn tallies nine individual winners and will have two chances Aug. 26 at Saratoga to become the sire of black-type horses. The powerful partnership of WinStar and Siena Farm will send New York-bred Miracle to post in the state-restricted Seeking the Ante S. from the barn of Rudolphe Brisset. The $360,000 OBSMAR speedster was a six-length debut winner July 27 at the venue. Prior to the training sale, she'd passed through the ring as a yearling at SARAUG 2021 for $250,000 to Bay Hill Stables, and as a weanling at FTKNOV 2020 for $110,000 to American Equistock.
The second opportunity will come later in the card when owner/trainer Uriah St. Lewis sends out his New York-bred Belt Parkway in the Funny Cide S. A $160,000 SARAUG purchase by Christophe Clement, acting as agent, the colt resurfaced in the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 'Timonium' sale in May and went to Trin Brook Stables for only $30,000. Belt Parkway comes in off a nose unveiling victory in a dirt dash at Parx.
With many juveniles filling maiden special entries in the coming days in addition to the stakes action, the slow start looks to be in Mendelssohn's rear view mirror. If his siblings are used as an auspicious indicator of things to come, further successes will arrive in due time and on their own time.