Mucho Macho Man Returns In $400,000 Sunshine Millions Classic
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Since early December, a month after his thrilling victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), Mucho Macho Man has been steadily preparing for his return to the races. Come Saturday, the wait is over.
In what could turn out to be a huge day for the Mucho Macho Man camp, the Florida-bred fan favorite will make his 6-year-old debut in the $400,000 Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park.
Later in the evening, the track will host the 43rd annual Eclipse Awards dinner and ceremony, where the son of Macho Uno is up for both champion older male and Horse of the Year.
The 1 1/8-mile Classic caps the 12th annual Sunshine Millions program, offering six races worth $1.3 million to showcase horses bred in Florida.
“It’s going to be fun,” said Kathy Ritvo, who trains Mucho Macho Man for owners Dean and Patti Reeves. “I know I appreciate good horses myself, so it’s nice for the people to get a chance to see him. He’s just so happy where he is right now.
“I’m honored for him to be nominated. I hope they recognized the biggest race of the year. He had a great year. They can’t take that away from him. One way or another, we’ll be happy. And the other horses had great years, too, so congratulations to them, also. It is what it is. We know how good he is. We could have a really good day.”
Favored at 2-5 in the morning line, Mucho Macho Man will break from post four in the six-horse field under Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who flies in from California for the mount.
Mucho Macho Man has had six works since the Breeders’ Cup, his second straight Grade 1 victory, including a pair of sharp half-mile works this month over Gulfstream’s main track.
“He was doing great before going to Santa Anita, and going into the Breeders’ Cup he was doing really well,” Ritvo said. “He came out of the race well, and I can’t ask him to be looking any better. It sounds silly because I say it every time, but he’s just doing very, very good. He knows what to do. Gary’s coming in, and he’s excited to be here. It’ll be great.”
This will be the third straight year that Mucho Macho Man opened his campaign in the Sunshine Millions Classic. He won the race in 2012, but was pulled up last year after struggling on a sloppy, sealed main track.
He didn’t return until mid-June in the Criminal Type at Belmont Park, running third, then was third again in the Whitney Handicap (G1) in August at Saratoga, where he was rained out of a scheduled start in the Woodward (G1) prior to leaving for California.
“I think it’s a great race for him to start out in. It’s a perfect place for him to start,” said Finn Green, racing manager for Reeves Thoroughbred Racing. “We really started in June of last year, so we’re kind of in mid-campaign right now. We’re in a good place. The horse is in great shape. He’s ready.”
Among Mucho Macho Man’s rivals on Saturday are Bernie the Maestro, second in the program at 4-1, and Gourmet Dinner, who is listed at 6-1. Trained by Mike Maker for Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Bernie the Maestro was last seen running sixth as the favorite in the Claiming Crown Jewel at Gulfstream on Dec. 7.
“Last time, I wish he was in the race a little more and he wasn’t,” Maker said. “We just kind of drew a line through it. He’ll be into it on Saturday. He’s doing well. Obviously, I don’t have any false illusions but it is horse racing and second, third and fourth pay pretty good.”
Gourmet Dinner, a 6-year-old son of Trippi, has run up against Mucho Macho Man before. The two made their debut together on July 17, 2010 at Calder, where Gourmet Dinner finished first, a length ahead of Mucho Macho Man.
They met the following year in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream, where Gourmet Dinner got the best of him again, finishing third three lengths in front of the favored Mucho Macho Man. The race was won by Dialed In, who would go on to win the Florida Derby (G1).
“It’s a tough task, but how lucky both of us are to have two horses running that ran together in July of 2010 in their first start, because you know how tough it is to keep them together,” said Bill Terrill, who co-bred Gourmet Dinner along with Ocala Stud. “Mucho Macho Man really improved and became a great horse, there’s no doubt. We’re here and I can tell you this, it’s no embarrassment to be second to a horse like that.”
Gourmet Dinner finished third in each of his last two starts, an allowance at Parx Racing in November and the Broad Brush Stakes at Laurel Park on Dec. 7, which was run over a muddy, sealed track.
“We know we’re shooting for the moon, but you’ve got to be in it to win it,” Terrill said. “I think [Mucho Macho Man] should be Horse of the Year, or at least older horse to be honest with you. We’re just very happy to have the opportunity to run along with him. Other than him being such a standout, I think we have a heck of a chance to run good in the race.”