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Sunday, May 1, 2011
On Master of Hounds


LOUISVILLE, KY -- Last week we were pretty much on pins and needles coming down to the remaining few days before the Kentucky Derby, not quite exactly sure if we had a mount. It's a lot different than last year, when I rode Lookin at Lucky and we went off as the favorite. I'd been on him all season and the season before; I knew I'd be in the saddle going into the race. There wasn't a question or concern about finding a horse to ride -- I was one of the ones who had it locked up.

This year, after all was said and done with the 3-year-old preps, knowing that Master of Hounds was potentially going to come here from Europe, we decided he was our best shot and went about the process of getting the mount. The connections hadn't really decided if they were going to run, and every time we talked it was like "eighty-five percent sure," "ninety percent sure," but not a definite answer. Once they did commit to coming on Friday, it was a big relief because we'd thrown in our lot with him with the potential of getting shut out of the field if he didn't come. We think he's a very nice horse and he has a legitimate chance in this year's race, and thankfully it all came together and we're good to go.

When you're getting on a horse you've never ridden before, especially in a big race like the Kentucky Derby, one of the most important things you can do is talk to the team about his running style and what they've done with him. Once he gets here on Tuesday and the connections arrive, I'll go over strategy with them and get filled in on how he's been doing since the last time he ran here, which was last year in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (finishing sixth). Research is also key, and I'll do plenty of that when I go over the field after the post position draw on Wednesday.

The nice thing about this colt is that he's made the trip over before. He's well-traveled so he should handle shipping just fine. He's been in big fields over in Europe and here, so that shouldn't be an issue. It may be just a matter of the dirt hitting him in the face and how he's going to adapt to it. In the Breeders' Cup race, which I won on Pluck, we had really soft ground on the turf and he was laying about ninth, so he probably had a lot of different stuff flying at him then, too. Hopefully we don't have to adjust too much and he'll travel well.

His effort in the UAE Derby on March 26 was very game for his first start of the season, and he only lost by a nose. I've ridden for the folks at Coolmore before and I know they wouldn't send him out here if they didn't think they had a pretty decent chance at winning this race. The way the field looks, he definitely ranks among the classiest in there.

I'll be out on the backside this week and will be trying to figure this year's Derby out just like the rest of you. If you have any questions, leave them here!