01/10/2012 4:10PM

Dubai: Master of Hounds in new hands

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Kim Pratt
Master of Hounds will start in the Maktoum Challenge for trainer Michael de Kock.

The first round of the Al Maktoum Challenge tops Thursday night’s race card at Meydan in Dubai, and topping the first round of the Al Maktoum Challenge – at least in terms of interest – is Master of Hounds, who drew on the far outside of a 12-horse field entered in the one-mile race over the main track’s Tapeta surface.

Master of Hounds was second by a nose in the 2011 UAE Derby before racing in two-thirds of the Triple Crown, finishing a respectable fifth in the Kentucky Derby before throwing a clunker in the Belmont Stakes, where he checked in 10th of 12. It’s what happened since then that’s of special note: Sheikh Mohamed bin Khalifa al Maktoum purchased the colt from Coolmore and turned him over to trainer Michael de Kock. Archipenko and Eagle Mountain, both high-class grass runners of recent years, followed a similar pattern, and it will be interesting to see what de Kock might have in Master of Hounds.

Master of Hounds’ only synthetic-surface start came in the UAE Derby, where he led a furlong from the finish before being edged by the filly Khawlah. A son of Kingmambo, Master of Hounds scored the lone victory of his career on grass.

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De Kock also entered the highly capable Musir, a $2.1 million earner who has finished worse than second only once in six Meydan starts and won the 2010 UAE Derby. Musir raced as recently as September, when he easily won a Group 2 turf mile in Turkey.

One of trainer Saeed bin Suroor’s two runners is Mendip, who won Round 1 of the Al Maktoum Challenge in 2011 and has finished first in 4 of his 5 starts over the Meydan main track. Mendip hasn’t been out since finishing sixth on turf in the Duty Free on World Cup night, but there’s a good chance he has been prepared for a representative comeback run.

Carrying the Godolphin colors is Xin Xu Lin, who could finish only fifth in the 2011 UAE Derby after being imported from South America, where he won the 2010 Group 1 Gran Premio Carlos Pelligrini by two lengths, beating 18 rivals.

Also worthy of note is Derbaas, who finished third behind the good filly Mahbooba last Thursday night, and who won a one-mile Tapeta race last season at Meydan.