Only in a 19-horse stampede like the Kentucky Derby can an off-the-board finish elicit a reaction that otherwise is reserved for the victors. A case in point is Susan Magnier's Master of Hounds, which got fifth place, some five lengths behind Animal Kingdom, in Saturday's Run for the Roses.
Trainer Aidan O'Brien entered the 3-year-old colt off a close second in Dubai in late March. Master of Hounds went off a surprisingly low 16-1 in his return to Churchill Downs, where he ran sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf last November.
Master of Hounds had only four horses behind him as he made his way down the Churchill backstretch, several paths out from the rail. The eventual winner, which settled early into midpack, got the jump on Master of Hounds and several other deep closers, which nullified the fast finish the Ballydoyle-based colt exhibited, in which he weaved his way through horses under Garrett Gomez past the twin spires.
"I really like him," said Gomez of Master of Hounds. "It was a great run for his first time on dirt. We had a really good trip. We were at the mercy of the [leisurely] pace. I'm looking forward to riding him in the Belmont Stakes."
"It was a great race for his first time on dirt," said O'Brien of Master of Hounds. "We're delighted."
Similarly pleased, despite finishing sixth, were the connections of Santiva.
"He had a decent trip and didn't get beat that far," said trainer Eddie Kenneally of Santiva, which closed to finish a nose behind Master of Hounds. "He tried hard, so no real excuses."
"I thought we had a phenomenal trip," said Shaun Bridgmohan, Santiva's jockey. "We saved ground, but today just wasn't his day to win. He didn't disrespect himself at all."
Santiva had every right to feel disrespected by the wagering public, however. At 34-1, he was sent off at longer odds than all but four of his rivals, despite winning a graded stakes over the very same Churchill surface last fall. Kenneally hasn't ruled out the Preakness Stakes on May 21 for Santiva.
Kelly Breen sent out Pants on Fire, the 8-1 second choice, and got a ninth-place finish after the colt pressed the early pace.
"He never stopped running," said Breen. "He never stopped trying."
Breen was quoted by the Daily Racing Form as reporting that Pants on Fire "bled a significant amount" during the race and will not contest the remaining Triple Crown races. Rather, he will await the July 31 Haskell Stakes at Monmouth Park, where Breen stables at that time of year.
As for Soldat, the Kiaran McLaughlin hopeful, his number appeared to be up heading into the far turn.
Jockey Alan Garcia had him ideally placed outside of horses, slightly off the pace, down the backstretch, but he began to fade and was no longer a threat by the time the field straightened for home.
"Everything was good with him, but by the three-eighths pole he was done," said Garcia.
"He came back from the race in good shape, he just was flat the last part," said McLaughlin of Soldat.
McLaughlin has yet to draw up Soldat's next assignment.
A WINNING DARE
Trainer Cathal Lynch won what is believed to be his first race at Belmont Park when David and Margaret Wimer's Daring Reality closed with a fury to win the $60,000 Wanda Stakes at the hallowed New York track on Sunday. The 3-year-old filly was stakes-placed at Aqueduct twice this past winter, but most recently finished a distant ninth on the grass at Pimlico in early April. She trailed the field early in this 1-turn mile over the main track and kicked in under Jose Lezcano to reach the wire in front by just over a length. She returned a resounding $48.60 to win.
Lynch also got a win in Philly Park's seventh race on Saturday from Wiki, a 4-year-old gelding that held on under Angel Arroyo to prevail by a nose in a starter allowance mile around two turns. Lynch took his time with this Stuart Janney castoff, waiting until this past January for Wiki's debut, which he won at Philly. He has since been competitive in two tries against winners before Saturday. He paid $5.80 to win.