Master Fencer Odds to Win the 2019 Kentucky Derby with Picks and Predictions
The presence of this horse in this race is a total and absolute farce. There is no way around that. He doesn't belong, and he is stealing a spot from a more deserving horse. But money makes the world go around, and this horse represents a whole lot of money.
A couple years ago the Derby started a points race in Japan. The horse that earns the most points in the series of races there qualifies for the Derby - as long as he is already nominated. This horse actually finished fourth in the series, but he was the only nominated horse, so here we are. Why Japan? It's simple. They bet much, much more on races than we do here. And they are very choosy of what signals they will allow into the country. Having a Japanese horse in the race opens doors. But Japan is a great racing nation, so surely they could find a horse more inspiring than this one. In fact, I'm not sure they could find one much less inspiring.
Last race: His last start came on March 31 in the Fukuryu Stakes, the last of the Derby prep races in Japan. He finished second on the day and was moving forward at the end. The top three-year-old in the country, Derma Louvre, was in Dubai for the UAE Derby - which he showed poorly in against second tier American colts - so the field wasn't great.
Prior experience: The horse made his debut in September, but it wasn't until his third try late in December that he broke his maiden. He won again next time out in the equivalent of an allowance race here. Then he made his stakes debut in the Hyacinth, which was another Derby prep race. He was fourth in that outing, and by all accounts he wasn't a serious factor. So, he hasn't been good enough to win two fairly underwhelming stakes races over in Japan, and now he has to travel all the way over here and face a massive field. It's hard to get excited about that. The only really interesting thing here is that his first two races, while on turf, were at the Derby distance of a mile and a half. No domestic three-year-old will have seen the distance before.
Trainer: Koichi Tsunoda is a retired jockey who has had some success since starting training in 2011. He trains this colt for owner and breeder Yoshizawa Stable, a major operation in Japan that campaigned Just a Way, named the world's best racehorse in 2014, and the sire of this colt.
Jockey: Hiroyuki Uchida is a 48-year-old jockey who has been a champion rider in Japan. He has ridden just three races in the United States over his long career. In 1996 he rode in two races at Santa Anita with little success. And in 2007 at Hollywood Park he finished way up the track in the CashCall Mile Invitational with a Japanese horse that had made the trip over. It is presumed that Uchida will make the trip over for this race.
Breeding: Master Fencer is just the third Japanese-based horse in the race - following Ski Captain in 1995 and Lani in 2016. The difference is that this is the first Japanese-bred horse in the race. His sire is Just a Way, the World's Best Racehorse in 2014 on the strength of an impressive win in the Dubai Duty Free and several big wins in Japan. Just a Way, who is a grandson of the great 1989 Derby and Preakness winner Sunday Silence, was the top freshman sire of 2018. Master Fencer's dam, Sexy Zamurai, was bought at the 2005 Keeneland sale in Kentucky and taken to Japan. She is a daughter of Deputy Minister, the two-year-old champion of 1981 who sired many top horses, and was grandsire of many others, including horse of the year Ghostzapper and Preakness winner Oxbow. Deputy Minister was a truly stellar damsire, with offspring on that side including the legendary Curlin, and Belmont winners Jazil, Rags to Riches and Sarava. The breeding is the best part of this horse.
Odds: When the colt has shown up in the odds at all, it has been at a massive price - well over 100/1. There is a good chance that he will be the longest shot on the board in the Derby.
Can Master Fencer Win the 2019 Kentucky Derby?: Probably not. He is not close to the best three-year-old in Japan, and Japanese colts have not been impressive in their limited Derby tries. The breeding and experience mean the distance won't bother him, but it sure doesn't seem like he is good enough for this race.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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