The China Horse Club (CHC) has been a going concern only since 2013 but has an exceptional record of success.  According to its website, it has won over 350 races in nine different countries, including almost 20 Grade I events, most notably the Epsom Derby, the Irish Derby, and the Kentucky Oaks.

The CHC stands a good chance of adding the 2018 Kentucky Derby to its achievements.

The organization was founded in 2013 by Teo Ah Khing “to be Asia’s premier lifestyle, business, and thoroughbred racing club.”  Teo Ah Khing is a Malaysian-Chinese Harvard-educated billionaire architect, who designed Meydan, the palatial racetrack in Dubai where the Dubai World Cup is held.  Since its inception, CHC has partnered with some of the world’s leading racehorse owners and breeders and its advisory board includes John Warren, the bloodstock advisor to Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain.

CHC has ownership interests in Santa Anita Derby winner Justify and Florida Derby winner Audible (and runner-up in the Arkansas Derby Quip, who is being prepped for the Preakness).  The trainers of Justify and Audible are, respectively, Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher.

The latest Kentucky Derby Media Poll of contenders has Justified ranked first and Audible fourth.

Only two owners (John Galbreath and Paul Mellon) have owned both Kentucky Derby and Epsom Derby winners, but it took them many years to do so.  CHC might accomplish the feat within five years of its founding.*

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business

*Were Mendelssohn, Solomini, or Enticed to win the 2018 Kentucky Derby, his owners would also have achieved the rare feat of winning both the Epsom Derby and the Kentucky Derby.


Felix Mendelssohn’s most famous overture was one composed for William Shakespeare’s play “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”  May is springtime in Kentucky, but maybe on the first Saturday of the month in 2018, Mendelssohn’s equine namesake will prematurely bring a summer dream to reality, one full of red roses and filled with the sounds of Irish laughter.

Mendelssohn, owned by Coolmore Stud connections Derrick Smith, Susan Magnier, and Michael Tabor, won the UAE Derby in late March by 18 ¼ lengths in track-record time of 1:55.18 for the 1 3/16 miles.  His next start is scheduled to be in the Kentucky Derby.

The colt is by the late starcrossed sire Scat Daddy and out of Leslie’s Lady by Tricky Creek.  Scat Daddy was sired by Johannesburg, who was owned by Coolmore Stud and won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 2001.  Leslie’s Lady is also the dam of the Eclipse champion mare Beholder (sire Henny Hughes) and Grade I winner and successful sire Info Mischief (by Harlan’s Holiday); she was Broodmare of the Year in 2016 and currently is in foal to Medaglia d’ Oro.

Coolmore purchased Mendelssohn for $3 million as a yearling at the Keeneland sale in fall of 2016.  He was bred and raised by Clarkland Farm in Kentucky.  Mendelssohn won the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in 2017.

Only four colts owned by someone with citizenship outside the United States have ever won the Kentucky Derby:  Northern Dancer, Majestic Prince, and Sonny’s Halo had Canadian owners and Fusaichi Peagasus’ owner was from Japan.

Thus were Mendelssohn to win the 2018 Kentucky Derby, it would be the second time that the winner was owned by an individual other than a North American.  However, no Kentucky Derby winner has had the majority of his starts at racetracks outside North America and trained up to the race on foreign soil…or traveled so extensively.  Hands down, Mendelssohn has the most peripatetic background in Derby history, winning races in three different countries on three different surfaces–turf, dirt, and synthetic.

The County Tipperary-based Mendelssohn should have plenty of frequent-flyer miles.  He has gone from the Coolmore training facility known as Ballydoyle to sunny California for the Breeders’ Cup, to Dubai in the desert for the UAE Derby, and shortly will be in the air once again, this time to Louisville and Churchill Downs, some 75 miles from his ancestral roots in the Bluegrass.

Mendelssohn will be disadvantaged in the Derby by his long flight from Ireland to Kentucky and the five-hour time differential.  The gates will open for the race at a time Mendelssohn would be in deep sleep were he at home and his feed and work routine will be disrupted.  If he can win the Derby fighting these handicaps and put away 19 other talented colts, it will be a remarkable feat.

Ryan Moore, Mendelssohn’s regular rider, on Derby Day also has a mount on Coolmore’s talented Saxon Warrior in the Two Thousand Guineas at Newmarket.  Bookmakers are taking bets on whether Moore rides Mendelssohn or Saxon Warrior, and Mendelssohn in the Derby is the odds-on choice.  If Moore rides Mendelssohn, the colt will, arguably, have the services of the world’s best jockey and the world’s best trainer in Aidan O’Brien.

Moore has no illusions about the difficulty of the task ahead.  After the Dubai Derby, he said: “He’s got a beautiful pedigree, he’s got the form, he races forward, and there’s plenty of experience now.  But that’s [the Kentucky Derby] a different thing—a hard race with more runners.  You can’t compare it to today.”

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business


The Kentucky Derby is no longer billed as Presented by Yum Brands.  The 2018 version is the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve.  The latter makes far more sense from a marketing and advertising perspective.

Yum Brands, Inc. is a global fast-food restaurant franchisor whose brands are known worldwide: KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell.  However, most people do not associate these names with Yum Brands.  Thus, the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum Brands does not connect.  More likely the reaction is: “What is Yum Brands?”  Yum Brands would have been better served by choosing one of its brand names to be the title sponsor for the Kentucky Derby, such as the Kentucky Derby Presented by KFC.  Not only is there a rationale for pairing the Kentucky Derby with KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), but the vast majority of television viewers recognize the KFC brand.

Brown-Forman, the new Kentucky Derby title sponsor, has avoided the mistake made by Yum Brands.  Brown-Forman (traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbols BF-A and BF-B) is a Louisville, Kentucky-headquartered company with brand offerings in whiskey, scotch, tequila, vodka, liquer, and wine.  Brown-Forman did not choose to have the Kentucky Derby Presented by Brown-Forman, but rather, selected one of its brands to be the title sponsor:  the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve.  People may not know of Brown-Forman, but many recognize Woodford Reserve.  Or can be educated to recognize it via the Derby sponsorship.

One might ask why Brown-Forman did not go with its leading brand, Jack Daniels.  The answer is likely that the company wanted a Kentucky-distilled bourbon like Woodford Reserve (located in the heart of Bluegrass country near Lexington) rather than Tennessee-made Jack Daniels.

Woodford Reserve’s association with the Kentucky Derby goes like hand in glove.  According to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, 95% of the global supply of bourbon originates in Kentucky and the state promotes to tourists the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.  Moreover, bourbon consumption has been booming the past several years in the United States and globally…and the top three importers are all significant horse-racing nations—the UK, Japan, and Australia.

Woodford Reserve’s affiliation with the Kentucky Derby—and therefore the mint julep—is a marketing natural.  So would have been the Kentucky Derby Presented by KFC and the most famous Kentucky Colonel, the white-suit-clad icon still appearing in television commercials.

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business