01/12/2012 2:56PM

Dubai: Maktoum Challenge goes to Musir with Master of Hounds a strong second

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Musir scored a decisive victory in the $200,000 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 on Thursday night at Meydan in Dubai, but it was his stablemate, Master of Hounds, who took a solid step toward the Dubai World Cup with a runner-up finish.

With Christophe Soumillon aboard, Musir settled in fourth and fifth down the backstretch as Xin Xu Lin set the pace in the 1,600-meter (about one mile) race over Meydan’s Tapeta main track. Xin Xu Lin dropped tamely away about 500 meters out, with Secrecy taking over the lead, but Musir quickly pounced, bounding to the front just inside the 400-meter marker and sprinting clear. Mendip, who had won Round 1 of the Al Maktoum Challenge in 2011, bid mildly on the inside, but Master of Hounds made the big late run for second. He finished three lengths behind the winner, with Secrecy just third over Mendip. Musir was timed in 1:35.85, just .08 of a second off the course record.

Musir, a 6-year-old Australian-bred, won for the fourth time over the Meydan strip, but winning trainer Michael de Kock said afterward that Musir favors distances up to 1 1/8 miles, and that the 2,000-meter World Cup, in which he finished seventh last year, is farther than the horse prefers.

Master of Hounds, on the other hand, “wants a bit further” than the 1,600 meters he got Thursday night, according to de Kock, who was sending out Master of Hounds for the first time since the 2011 Belmont Stakes. Master of Hounds, privately purchased by Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum last fall, was at the back of the field for much of Thursday’s race, moving wide on the turn before finishing with a flourish in the stretch and galloping out well in front of Musir.

“I think he’s a World Cup horse this year,” said de Kock.