06/11/2011 1:20AM

Master Blasters


I could live to be whatever I'll be next year and still not have this social network thing nailed, especially when it comes to self-promotion. To wit:

In the moments immediately following the running of this year's Kentucky Derby, before Barry Irwin called anyone a liar or Robby Albarado felt his first wave of Animal Kingdom-induced nausea, I announced to anyone who cared to listen that Master of Hounds was my Belmont horse no matter what happened in the Preakness or anywhere else on the Triple Crown scene. Unfortunately, those within shouting distance were too busy having way too much fun at a Kentucky Derby party, and now that the race was over the real celebrating was about begin. I believe I told the host's 10-year-old son, his dog, and whispered it in the ear of a guy passed out on the sofa: "Pssst....Belmont. Master of Hounds. Believe it." 

As it turns out, I should have tweeted those sentiments immediately, logged them onto this blog, and maybe even rented the Goodyear blimp to broadcast my point of view. I figured, at my mid-1990s pace, there would be plenty of time to hype the Coolmore colt down the line, as the Belmont approached, at which time I would set myself apart as making a daring choice in the face of the conventional wisdom aligning with the obvious candidates -- Animal Kingdom, Shackleford and Nehro -- who had emerged as the most consistent and durable members of the generation.

I figured wrong. In these fast times, the slow and shy are roadkill. Here we are five weeks down the line from Derby Day and the snowball is rolling. Somehow, Master of Hounds had become the most popular fifth-place Kentucky Derby finisher in history. (Forego did not get this kind of bounce finishing fourth to Secretariat, for pete's sake.) Suddenly, it's become hip to go with the horse from Ireland, a colt who has not slept in his own bed for more than a few nights over the past month. A horse who has won exactly one race in his life. A colt who, being generous, is probably about No. 6 or 7 on the Ballydoyle depth chart.

The guy at the local surf shop, where I buy my wife's board wax (don't ask), told me the other day he was sending 20 bucks to his aunt in Massapequa to bet on the "Hound horse" on Saturday. The mailman, who is not supposed to care, wondered aloud if Garrett Gomez fit the horse and that maybe Johnny Murtagh should be riding. The lady who ruins my dry-cleaning asked if that nice young Mr. O'Brien would be attending the Belmont to greet the winner. I got grief from the neighbors when I was late getting them the Belmont draw, and then had to wait while they argued about the inside post, and whether or not Master of Hounds would break.

The paid experts have lined up as well. I know why my Racing Form colleague Steve Andersen picked Master of Hounds. He'd always rather be in Ireland, and besides, O'Brien used to train jumpers. ESPN's Kenny Mayne, another Hound man, will do anything for a laugh. But how do you explain a bandwagon that also includes the Racing Form's Kenny Peck and Byron King, as well as such geographically diverse observers as Paul Daley, Brendan O'Meara, Bill Heller, Ed McNamara, Bob Mieszerski, Howard Senzell, Ellis Starr, and Bob Fortus. I'm sure there were others, and they can thank me later for not mentioning their names.

I blame the whole thing on Triple Crown emotional overload. Much was promised and little delivered this year until Animal Kingdom's stout-hearted Derby performance brought him from the chorus line to the footlights. He became the hero everyone settled for, and he has worn that dubious crown with honor. Little wonder, though, that opinion-makers are willing to jump ship at the slightest whiff of something new.

Make no mistake -- Master of Hounds could win. But he will need to be ridden aggressively, sitting no worse than two or three lengths back of Shackleford after three-quarters of a mile, and then get the jump on Animal Kingdom by kicking for home early to take advantage of his depth of pedigree and condition.

I've never been on the cutting edge of anything. I suppose I should be grateful I wasn't out front on the rush to Master of Hounds. The strain would have been too much to bear. Anyway, it goes without saying I'm never to be taken seriously when it comes to predicting the outcome of races. That is neither my job nor my inclination. We've got some very good minds at the Form to play that role, and they always deserve attention. But when I saw that my boss, Steven Crist -- he of the rigorous, mathematical mind and cold, hard logic -- picked Master of Hounds, I knew we had passed through the looking glass. I am now wondering if I was watching the horse I thought I was watching in the Derby, and who put what in my strawberry margarita.

The Gabster More than 1 year ago
I am stuck with the Hound. At the 2010 breeders cup the hound did not hit the board. After the cup, I barely had enough to get a Remy Martin. In the Kentucky Derby, I was excited to see the world class connections, Lady Magnier and Trainer O'Brien, send the master back to churchill downs. They did, I lost, but I manages to salvage some Remy money. Here we go again, the connections are sending and I am following, even though it is on dirt, and here is why. I envision that the Master Of Hounds will run a huge race, and if that is not enough to win, then it is back to the turf where I am cetain he can win the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington, or the Breeders Cup Turf for 3 year olds back at Churchhill. But if he gets the job done today, Lady Magnier may even take a shot in the Traverlers or even in the Breeders Cup Turf, or even The Classic. But first things first, the huge race that I have envisioned for today must be realized. I know y'all think I am dreaming or something, I am not, I am just stuck with the Hound, and I am expecting to have that Remy after 2011 Belmont is in the record books. Waiting For The Hounds to come home here in Kissimmee Fl !!! P.S. I hope I do not have to go back to that popcorn and water rationings that I was forced on after the Derby. The Gabster
Cary Fotias More than 1 year ago
Jay - I'ts a mysyery only sherlock Holmes can unravel Remember Hound of the Baskervilles?
rf More than 1 year ago
The Brooklyn-Belmont double is the same 34.00 for the Hound @Kingdom.All the wise guys are down.Carrying 126 over a mile @ a half and all that smart money will surely slow him down.
RoMo More than 1 year ago
. . Jay .. seems to me that's a very thin branch a lot of "you touts" have crawled out on ..? I'll admit .. I also put "the horse Can Do" stigma on Master of Hounds, for no other reason than he's a "Euro" (we know they are all bred to "stay") ..? Then you look at the Po's .. and start scratching your head ..? There is no shortage of route races where he's from and yet .. he sprints ..? His only route prior to the Derby .. was 10 lengths slower than this years Preakness (where did that rank again as far as time ..?).. Add to that the Transatlantic Flights and the stays in the "Maybe has Cooties" barn ..? (you hear the branch cracking yet ..?) He had a better Derby trip than Brilliant Speed about the same as Santiva (the shorter trip) and was still in a photo for the 5-7 slots in the Derby ..? .. It is 12f .. They are 3 year old colts .. It looks like rain ..? I'm not saying it's not possible .. I am saying .. I can't see it on paper ..?
Mooch More than 1 year ago
By the looks of the early odds for the Belmont and the Brooklyn-Belmont double "will pays" it seems that you might of told more people than you realized, and it looks like they all listened. For the sake of your mail getting delivered on time, your shirts coming back clean and you escaping the ER room over a dog bite you better be right