I have a strong fancy for MASTER OF HOUNDS in the Belmont Stakes at New York on Saturday. This race is a re-run of the Kentucky Derby as the first seven home in that race make up the field of twelve at the New York track on Saturday night (11.35pm UK time).
Aidan O’Brien’s Master Of Hounds completely blew the start at Churchill Downs and ran on best of all into an eye-catching fifth. Hopefully a trainer of Aidan O’Brien’s stature will have done the necessary stalls work in the five weeks since that race to ensure we don’t see a repeat performance. I counted Master Of Hounds as desperately unlucky not to have been bustling up the winner Animal Kingdom that day. It was soul-destroying to see how well he overcame his adversity only to get fifth place.
This race is a mile and a half as opposed to the ten furlongs of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. The extra two furlongs of this Belmont Stakes will count in Master Of Hounds’ favour and very much against the Americans, whose horses always struggle to get a mile and a half. It is a trip the yanks think is a marathon. For them, the universe ends at ten furlongs. Beyond is uncharted territory.
Another advantage Master Of Hounds has over his rivals is that he skipped the Preakness Stakes, the middle leg of the American Triple Crown, to concentrate on this final leg. He will come into the race fresher and better prepared than most of the weary warriors.
In addition, there is a field of just 12 now as opposed to the 19 rivals he was up against in the Derby. This smaller field will help ensure a hold-up horse starts his charge from nearer to the pace and makes it less likely he runs into traffic.
Master Of Hounds features as a gilt-edged each-way bet. The UK bookies currently offer 6/1 about Master Of Hounds, but it may be best to hold fire as his odds in America could drift to a longer price come race time. If you want to hedge your bets then have half your chosen stake at 6/1 and wait with the other half.
Aidan O’Brien’s colt may sneak under the betting radar as the Americans pour their USA betting money onto Shackleford and Animal Kingdom, winners of the first two legs. Punting allegances will have been forged and I don’t think the yanks will identify as solidly with johnny foreigner Master Of Hounds as they should. Let’s hope they bet with their hearts not their heads.
I’m not the only one tipping the Ballydoyle jetsetter . . . the crooning chubster Elvis was surely thinking of this race alone when he howled ‘there aint nothing like a Hound dog.’ I am counting on it being his Nostradamus moment.