With each passing day it appears more likely there will be a new beast roaming the moors of Louisville just in time for Derby. Master conditioner Aidan O’Brien has announced that as long as Master of Hounds does well in his final work at Ballydoyle, the son of Kingmambo will be jettisoned on to Kentucky to take a shot in the seemingly wide open 2011 Kentucky Derby. With the formidable presence of Frankel looming as the overwhelming choice in Europe’s first Classic, The English 2,000 Guineas, it makes perfect sense for O’Brien to want to ship his star colt to Kentucky for what may well be perceived as an easier spot.
Despite being a winner only once in seven starts, the beautifully bred Kentucky foal has proven to be of high class. After running 5th in his debut last May, Master of Hounds came back with two strong second place finishes in his next two starts, before romping home by six lengths in a Tipperary maiden event in July. Off that improvement, the Mrs. John Magnier owned bay colt was sent straight into group one racing. The result was a solid 3rd place finish in the one mile Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster.
Fresh off that performance, Master of Hounds was shipped across the Atlantic to compete at Churchill Downs for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Respecting his European form, American fans made him a 7-2 favorite in the field of ten. Breaking a bit slowly, the O’Brien runner sat near the back of the bunch early, before circling the field five wide turning for home. His late run was hampered when he did not change leads though, and he wound up finishing in the middle of the pack.
After a lengthy rest over the winter, Master of Hounds was placed in another difficult spot for his sophomore debut. Sent to Dubai for the Group 2 UAE Derby, Master of Hounds ran a big race to finish second to the excellent filly, Khawlah. Only beaten by a flair of the nostril, and in the final jump, Master of Hounds had led most of the lane after pouncing on the front runner early in the stretch of the 1 3/16 mile test run on Meydan’s Tapeta surface. Despite again being denied victory, it was a bang-up performance, as he fought the winner tooth and nail to the wire in his first race back.
Now it is on to Kentucky, to take an even bigger shot than he did last fall. This time the race will be on dirt, a surface that the Irish colt has never tried. Can we expect Master of Hounds to fare any better than so many other Europeans that have come over and failed in our Derby? Maybe, I still remember Bold Arrangement running an outstanding race to finish 2nd to Ferdinand, but that was 25 years ago. By Kingmambo, out of a Sadlers Well’s mare, there is more turf in his breeding, although there is enough dirt in his pedigree to be hopeful that he can take to the new surface. I think it will be a very tough task for him, but the fact remains that he may be better prepared to go the derby distance than his 19 American competitors.
Only time will tell whether Master of Hounds will be baying proudly at his fans from the Kentucky Derby winner’s circle or if Sherlock Holmes will be needed to find his whereabouts as the leaders cross the Churchill Downs’ finish line, but if the American crop is as weak as many suspect it to be, this could be the year for a foreign runner to take down our biggest prize.
Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to HRN, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.
The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing webcast HorseCenter, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves on the Board of The Exceller Fund.
Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars and is a Vox Populi committee member. He is a voter for racing's Hall of Fame, as well as a weekly NTRA poll voter.
A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.