By Ed Gray
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Mucho Macho Man put on a sparkling demonstration of resilience and raw ability at Gulfstream Park Saturday, capping the Florida Sunshine Millions program with an authoritative triumph in the $400,000 Classic.One of only three horses to have competed in all the three legs of the grueling Triple Crown last year, Mucho Macho Man made an auspicious 2012 debut in the finale of the six stakes for Florida-bred thoroughbreds with an overpowering performance.
Mucho Macho Man, the third-place finisher in last year’s Kentucky Derby, joined such state-bred stars as Awesome Feather, who remained undefeated with a victory in the $300,000 Distaff, a multiple stakes performer Little Mike, a gate-to-wire victor in the $150,000 Turf, to make Florida Sunshine Millions Day a huge success.
After an alert start, Mucho Macho Man quickly attained a close stalking position behind pacesetter Turbo Compressor into the first turn and continued to track the pace along the backstretch and into the far turn. Midway on the turn, jockey Ramon Dominguez asked the Kathy Ritvo-trained colt for some run, and the long-striding colt responded to quickly pass Turbo Compressor to open up a clear lead at the top of the stretch.
“It was the absolute perfect trip. We were right outside the speed. He handled himself so well. He gave me the feeling every step of the way that whenever I was ready to ask, he was ready to go,” Dominguez said. “He gave me so much confidence. I was just a passenger today.”
Mucho Macho Man, the 2-1 second betting choice, opened up a three-length lead in mid-stretch that proved to be insurmountable, as the strapping son of Macho Uno crossed the finish line 1 ½ lengths ahead of Ron the Greek, who was ridden by Jose Lezcano. Turbo Compressor, ridden by John Velazquez, held third money, a length further back. Adios Charlie, the 8-5 favorite, finished fifth.
“We really sat the perfect trip. We were right in behind the leaders and he just didn’t fire,” said jockey Javier Castellano of Adios Charlie. “He felt really good in the post parade, but today just wasn’t his day. He just didn’t fire.”
Mucho Macho Man ran the 1 1/8 miles of the Classic in a strong 1:47.91, less than a half of a second off the stakes record set (1:47.49) by Quality Road in 2010. Owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Dream Team Racing, Mucho Macho Man received a long break after finishing a troubled seventh in the Belmont Stakes, four days before he actually turned 3. Having been given time to grow into his tall frame, he returned to action at Aqueduct on Nov. 9, when he won an optional claiming allowance race by nearly six lengths to conclude his 3-year-old season.
“Ramon did a great job. Everything has gone well since we started back with him. The race at Aqueduct was at the right time to get him going again and everything has gone right since then,” Ritvo said. “When he came up to that other horse (Turbo Compressor) I was confident he would go on from there.”
Dominguez, who rode Mucho Macho Man for the first time in the Belmont Stakes, is impressed with his Classic winner’s development.
“You can really tell how much he’s grown up since I rode him in the Belmont. Back then, he was just a big skinny horse that had a lot of maturing to do,” Dominguez said. “Now he looks like he’s grown up and has everything figured out.”
Ritvo has no set plan for Mucho Macho Man’s next race.
“We’ll see how he comes out of it and then start to look for another race for him,” she said.
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