Macho Man, Tackleberry & Jackson Bend Clash In Gulfstream Park Handicap
By Jack Will
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Reeves Thoroughbreds and partners’ 4-year-old Mucho Macho Man and Robert LaPenta and Jacks or Better Farm’s 5-year-old Jackson Bend have each won a major stakes race at Gulfstream Park to begin their 2012 seasons, and are the likely favorites in a field of six older horses entered for Saturday’s $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) to be run at one mile.
Jockey Ramon Dominguez flies in to take a return call on Mucho Macho Man for trainer Kathy Ritvo after they teamed up for an impressive 1 ½ lengths victory in the $400,000 Sunshine Millions Classic over Ron the Greek here on Jan. 28, the latter going on to capture the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) last Saturday.
“He couldn’t be training any better,” trainer Kathy Ritvo said. “He’ll run a good race. He’ll run his race. He tries every time.”
Mucho Macho Man was a major player in the 3-year-old division last year when winning the Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds and finishing third behind Animal Kingdom in the Kentucky Derby (G1) before tailing off to be sixth in the Preakness Stakes (G1) and seventh in the Belmont Stakes (G1). The son of Macho Uno won an allowance race by 5 ¾ lengths at Aqueduct in November before shipping south.
Jackson Bend got his season off to a strong start winning the $100,000 Hal’s Hope Stakes (G3) on Jan. 14 over the track and one-mile distance of Saturday’s race in his first start since finishing a game third to Amazombie in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5. Jockey John Velazquez will be back aboard Saturday for trainer Nick Zito.
A chestnut son of Hear No Evil, Jackson Bend was prominent on the Triple Crown trail in 2010 when he finished a close-up third in the Preakness, beaten less than a length by Lookin At Lucky after a disappointing 12th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby won by Super Saver.
Jackson Bend was turned back to one-turn races for the second half of last season and won the seven-furlong Forego Stakes (G1) at Saratoga in early September and finished second to Uncle Mo in the Kelso Mile (G2) at Belmont in early October before the Breeders’ Cup. He finished fifth in the Gulfstream Park Handicap last winter, but was beaten only two lengths for it all after stumbling at the start.
“Jackson is Jackson,” says Zito. “He always shows up. The horse is doing well. He’s coming up to the race the way you want a horse to come up to it. You’ve got them all to beat. He has one of the biggest hearts in a horse I’ve ever seen. To be around (at) two, three, four years, he’s amazing.”
Luis Olivares 5-year-old Tackleberry won this race last year and will defend his title while making his first start since a ninth-place finish in the Metropolitan Handicap (G1) at Belmont Park on May 30 at the end of a long campaign. The son of Montbrook emerged as a fan favorite here last winter winning the Sunshine Millions Classic and Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship (G2) before this race. Jockey Rajiv Maragh is named to ride.
“I know this is a tough spot, but we have to get him started someplace,” said Olivares Wednesday. “I don’t think he can be 100 per cent off this kind of layoff, but he’s doing great. He worked a half-mile at Calder last Saturday in 47 and galloped out in 59 and change. It takes a really good horse to work like that at Calder. He’s a bigger, stronger horse than last year. I won’t be disappointed if he gets beat Saturday. There will be a lot of good races for him this year.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher sends out E. Paul Robsham Stable’s Soaring Stocks with jockey Joe Bravo as he takes a step up to Graded a stakes after he won the six-furlong Sunshine Millions Sprint last out on Jan. 28. The son of Trippi broke his maiden in his second start last summer at Monmouth Park, but finished fifth in an allowance race here on Dec. 8 going a mile in his only try beyond six furlongs.
The field is completed by Shadybrook Farm and partners’ 4-year-old Cajun Breeze to be ridden by Juan Leyva for trainer Michael Yates and LMR Stable’s 6-year-old Clean Shot with Luis Saez aboard for trainer Dubis Chaparro.
Cajun Breeze has run well in each of three starts at the meet following a third-place effort in a maiden special test at Calder in mid-October after shin problems delayed his career debut. The chestnut son of Congrats finished second and broke his maiden in two starts here in December before a very good runner-up finish in the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint on Jan. 28, beaten a half-length buy Soaring Stocks.