Mucho Macho Man Happy, Energetic After Saturday Victory
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - On the morning after scoring a hometown victory in emphatic fashion at Gulfstream Park, Florida-bred fan favorite Mucho Macho Man was happy and energetic as he walked the shedrow for trainer Kathy Ritvo.
Ritvo and Finn Green, the racing manager for owner Dean and Patti Reeves, admired the 6-year-old as they stood nearby and greeted a steady stream of visitors following Mucho Macho Man’s 14-length victory in Saturday’s $400,000 Sunshine Millions Classic.
“He’s so funny. He strolls, doesn’t he?” Ritvo said. “He looks like he’s good. He ran really well. It was a better start than last year, definitely.”
In last year’s Sunshine Millions, Mucho Macho Man was pulled up after struggling with an off track. He finished the year with a flourish, winning the Awesome Again (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita. Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens was aboard for both races, and improved to 3-for-3 on Mucho Macho Man with Saturday’s victory, which came in 1:48.76 for 1 1/8 miles against five overmatched challengers.
“It was a great race, and a lot of fun,” Green said. “He’s just an incredible horse. Kathy and everybody in the barn has done a great job with him. Gary rode a great race. It worked out perfect.”
Both Ritvo and Green were surprised by the reception Mucho Macho Man received when he left the paddock and was greeted by cheers from a crowd that lined the walking ring before he made his way to the main track. “That was really neat. I didn’t expect that,” Ritvo said. “Walking down in there, we just looked at each other. It was very cool.”
“It’s really nice for racing that the fans are behind this horse,” Green said.
There were no anxious moments in the Classic for Mucho Macho Man, who broke from post four and settled in behind pacesetter Bernie the Maestro before moving up willingly leaving the backstretch and cruising to the wire under a hand ride.
“I think he was more laid back and confident yesterday,” Ritvo said. “Before they put him in the gate, he took a couple prances up to the gate and then just walked in.”
The question now is where Mucho Macho Man will go next, and his camp will consider every possible option including a return to California for the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) on March 8 and even the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) on March 29.
“We have so many choices, we’ll just see what works for him,” Ritvo said. “The horse has done well like that, when we wait and let him tell us what he needs to do.”
The ultimate goal is to give Mucho Macho Man a chance to defend his title in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which returns to Santa Anita in 2014.
“You’ve got the conventional path, which would be the one he’s most cut out for, which is the dirt,” Green said. “But you also have to weigh things in this business and look at all of your options, and we always have. Kathy and I have always tried to figure out what’s best for the horse. The horse has allowed us to do well for him by just waiting for the right time to answer those questions. We won’t have an answer to what the options are going to be for probably five weeks. We’ll watch him and he’ll tell us.”
Green said the travel and the time to recover from both the race and the ship are two of many concerns in considering a trip to Dubai.
“The horse is a mile and a quarter horse and the horse is a great dirt horse, but he’s got a lot of versatility to him,” he said. “We trained him on the Tapeta at Fair Hill, and we feel confident that he’d be really, really competitive in Dubai. But, there are several hundred things that could go wrong between here and there. Our goal is to take him back to Santa Anita and compete in November. We know the horse is very good there.” Mucho Macho Man was a finalist for both champion older male and Horse of the Year at Saturday night’s Eclipse Awards ceremony held at Gulfstream Park. Both titles were won by Wise Dan, but Mucho Macho Man’s thrilling Breeders’ Cup victory was chosen as the NTRA’s Moment of the Year for 2013.
“That’s the beauty of our sport; we put on races every single day around the country,” Stevens said in accepting the award. “Thanks to Mucho Macho Man and Reeves Thoroughbreds for keeping a horse like that in the sport. I couldn’t think that I was going to be a part of that special moment because there were so many special moments in 2013. I’ll go so far as to say that the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year was one of the best Classic finishes that we’ve ever seen. Thank you Kathy Ritvo, thank you Finn Green, and thank you again Mucho Macho Man.”