04/18/2011 12:28PM

Under the Radar: Master of Hounds


After Frankel breezed through his seasonal debut in the Group 3 Greenham Stakes at Newbury on April 16, running his undefeated streak to five, it could be argued that the most talented 3-year-old colt in the world is not based in the United States.

Listed as the overwhelming 4-6 favorite for the Group 1 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on April 30, Frankel will likely be a handful in that English classic.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the great pond, shocking losses by top American contenders Uncle Mo and The Factor, coupled with injuries to Premier Pegasus and To Honor and Serve, have made the 2011 Kentucky Derby, on paper, one of the more wide-open renewals in recent memory.

Thus, as odd is it may sound, the path of least resistance for Irish-based Master of Hounds may lead to Churchill Downs in Louisville.

Before we get too excited about Master of Hounds’s participation in the first jewel in America’s Triple Crown, it must be noted that his owners have not fully committed to the race, although a spokesman for Coolmore's John Magnier said Monday that "the plan is for Master of Hounds to run in the Derby." Likely, it will either be the Guineas or the Run for the Roses. But, with only a few weeks remaining before the first Saturday in May, and Master of Hounds listed 11th on the graded earnings list, one would be unwise not to analyze his form.

Also, as an interesting related development, his trainer, Aidan O’Brien, recently nominated his older grass runners Cape Blanco and Jan Vermeer to the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Derby afternoon, possibly indicating readiness for an all-out European assault on the card’s major races. Master of Hounds is by Kingmambo, a multiple Group 1-winning product of the mating between legendary sire Mr. Prospector and all-world mare Miesque. Not surprisingly, Kingmambo evolved into a leading stallion, with the majority of his top performers winning overseas on turf. Lemon Drop Kid, a son of Kingmambo, was able to succeed on dirt, however, taking the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes at 12 furlongs.

Master of Hounds’s dam, Silk and Scarlet, by Sadler’s Wells, was a Group 2 winner at seven furlongs on grass in Ireland. She failed to crack the trifecta in all five of her starts at one mile or longer and never raced on dirt.

Silk and Scarlet’s other foal to race, Eishin Apollon, won the Keio Hai Nisai Stakes at seven furlongs on grass in Japan. His other victory came at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

Silk and Scarlet is a half-sister to Danger Over, a Group 3 winner at six furlongs on turf in France.

Master of Hounds is a result of the potent Kingmambo-Sadler’s Wells nick that has produced Japan Cup winner El Condor Pasa (also a Group 1 winner in France), French 1,000 Guineas heroine Divine Proportions, and English 1,000 Guineas winner Virginia Waters. Archipenko, another Kingmambo-Sadler’s Wells success story, took the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup in Hong Kong and finished second in the 2008 Arlington Million.

Master of Hounds was foaled in Kentucky on March 4, 2008, and was purchased privately by Coolmore prior to his career debut. He was sent to O’Brien and made his career debut last May in a six-furlong maiden on the grass at the Curragh. Cold in the marketplace at 7-1, Master of Hounds ran evenly en route to a fifth-place finish. The race produced three next-out winners, however, and Master of Hounds improved in his second start, a seven-furlong maiden at Leopardstown on June 10.

Sent away the 8-11 favorite in the field of eight, Master of Hounds made the front in the final furlong only to be outfinished by Dunboyne Express, the next out winner of the Group 3 Anglesey Stakes. Sixteen days later, Master of Hounds went favored in a seven-furlong maiden at the Curragh, but he couldn’t reel in loose-on-the-lead stablemate Roderic O’Connor, who would return to place second behind Frankel in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes before earning Group 1-winning status of his own in the Criterium International in France.

It was now-or-never time for Master of Hounds in a Tipperary maiden at 7 1/2 furlongs on July 11, and the Coolmore colt finally made good, this time at 1-7 odds. He won by six lengths against overmatched foes after racing close to the pace throughout.

O’Brien hiked Master of Hounds up in class for the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy at one mile on Oct. 23, and the colt rallied from the back to finish an even third, turning the tables on Dunboyne Express (finished fifth).

Despite still being eligible for a nonwinners-of-two allowance race, Master of Hounds went to Churchill Downs for the Grade 2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at one mile on Nov. 6. The 7-2 favorite, Master of Hounds broke a beat slowly and raced three wide on the backstretch near the tail end of the field. He circled the field five wide turning for home, but was late to change leads and couldn’t go with the top finishers late.

After being rested for the winter months, Master of Hounds made his 3-year-old debut in the Group 2 UAE Derby at 1 3/16 miles over the Tapeta surface at Meydan. Despite being nosed on the wire by a favored filly, Khawlah, this was Master of Hounds’s breakthrough race. He broke sweetly and found a wonderful spot tracking a tepid pace from the outside. Master of Hounds kicked on for home entering the straight and struck the front with three-sixteenths of a mile to run. Khawlah joined him in deep stretch and the two threw it down for the final yards before Khawlah received the favorable head-bob.

There are plenty of question marks surrounding Master of Hounds. He has yet to race on dirt, and many feel that the Tapeta surface played more to his strengths as a turf performer than to his potential as an American classic aspirant on dirt. With only one win – in a very weak maiden field – from seven starts, Master of Hounds has yet to display killer instinct in better-class races. Also, European horses have a tendency to break poorly when racing in North America. If that were to happen to Master of Hounds in the Kentucky Derby, he would likely have to weave his way through a bulky field while getting dirt kicked in his face for the first time.

All of these points would be rendered moot if O’Brien opts to remain in Europe with the colt, but Master of Hounds has shown some staying power on synthetic, and wouldn’t be the worst longshot stab in the Derby.

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