Safe to dismiss Master Fencer's Kentucky Derby 2019 chances?

April 24, 2019 02:20pm
Safe to dismiss Master Fencer's Kentucky Derby 2019 chances?
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As Japan's representative, Master Fencer may take some money from gamblers hoping to play against the favorites in a wide open Kentucky Derby field. In a year like this, it's not the worst idea to give a longshot a try atop your tickets.

Eventually, the right foreign invader will come along and upset this historic race. Unfortunately, Master Fencer is not the one to stop the trend.

Without proper running lines, speed figures or a deeper knowledge of the better horses in Japan, this horse is not the easiest Derby contender to examine. But his races are published to YouTube, and one of his old opponents tried the UAE Derby (G2), making some analysis possible.

Master Fencer competed in the one-mile Hyacinth Stakes on dirt, and the field contained one of the future UAE Derby participants Derma Louvre, who ran against
 familiar names Plus Que Parfait and Gray Magician

Master Fencer ran as a late closer, which is a first strike against him. He lagged in last, about three or four lengths from the next closest horse.

Closers in the Kentucky Derby require a little something extra, because a 20-horse field is generally brutal for a horse trying to move from several lengths behind. In contrast, shorter fields allow a closer to start the engine uninterrupted on the turn.

Orb won the Derby from the back in 2013, but he also showed his class by winning the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G1) and Florida Derby (G1) leading up to the race. He also flashed some versatility in the latter race by racing in midpack early on and not letting favorite Itsmyluckyday slip away.

Those qualities provided Orb something extra on paper to give handicappers confidence. He still was a closer, but he displayed above-average talent.

Master Fencer looked like an average closer in the Hyacinth as he swung outside and prepared to make a clear bid, but flattened out slightly and settled for fourth.

Meanwhile, Derma Louvre finished third in this race. One month later, he shipped over to Dubai for the UAE Derby and made little impact with a mild move for fourth. The 1-2 horses Plus Que Parfait and Gray Magician are American-based, but neither of them are considered top 3-year-olds, making Derma Louvre’s class questionable considering he never threatened them.

If Master Fencer cannot handle Derma Louvre, how can he mow down Omaha Beach, Improbable, Roadster, Game Winner, Maximum Security and all the other quality Derby horses? Those colts appear to be in a different league.

Master Fencer also competed in the Fukuryu Stakes as a final Derby prep. If there was any doubt about his running style, he also settled in last in this race and closed again.

Master Fencer wound up his kick on the outside and took a clear shot at the front, but Der Flug out-kicked him. Master Fencer had the entire stretch to pass and failed.

Furthermore, as a fellow closer Der Flug did not enjoy a significant pace advantage either, as he held the same spot as Master Fencer at the top of the stretch.

Whether analyzing a speed or closing horse, it is never a good sign to see him get out-kicked by another horse with a similar style. It is more ideal to see the horse finish atop his own pace group.

As another strike against Master Fencer’s class, he was not even the points leader in Japan. He gained only three points in the Hyacinth and 16 points in the Fukuryu. Der Flug picked up a whopping 40 points in the Fukuryu.

Plus Que Parfait and Gray Magician needed to ship to Dubai in order to secure enough Derby points, and Derma Louvre is not as good as them. Master Fencer is either equal or worse than Derma Louvre. If all those points are true, then how likely is it that Master Fencer would earn enough Derby points if based over here? He only qualified because of softer Japanese competition. 

Master Fencer is fine as an also-ran, though. Fans of Bodexpress, Signalman and Anothertwistafate might feel frustrated that an outsider gets an automatic spot, but Churchill Downs is increasing its international reach through Japanese and European trails.

Not only does an international horse like Master Fencer get Japanese fans talking, but racing fans in general seem to enjoy a foreign contender mix it up with Americans. We'll see what sort of impact the Kentucky Derby has at the betting windows in Japan, too.

But the truth is that Master Fencer is a poor bet anywhere on the ticket. He is not a good win bet, nor is he usable underneath on tickets either. In that sense, his presence is welcome to handicappers, too, because he is an easy toss with no regret.

If Signalman drew in, he would fit as an underneath type of horse in trifecta or superfecta tickets. By failing to make it, at least barring a defection, it makes structuring tickets less expensive and allows a less talented horse to enter and eat dead money.

Simply, ignore Master Fencer, and use some real contenders instead.


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