Laver Looking to Ace Sunday’s $150,000 Mucho Macho Man
Son of Centre Court Embarks on Trail to Curlin Florida Derby
HALLANDALE, FL – G. Watt Humphrey’s Laver will be looking to ace Sunday’s $150,000 Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream Park, where his dam, Centre Court, was a multiple graded-stakes winner over the turf course.
The one-turn mile Mucho Macho Man, the first stop on the Road to the $1 million Curlin Florida Derby (G1) for newly turned 3-year-olds, will be featured on the New Year’s Day program.
“Centre Court was just about a millionaire, a Grade 1 winner at Keeneland, a graded-stakes winner at Saratoga. She was a lot of fun,” said trainer Rusty Arnold, who also saddled Centre Court for back-to-back Honey Fox (G2) victories in 2013 and 2014 at Gulfstream, “She’s off to a very good start as a broodmare. She’s the dam of Navratilova, who’s a graded-stakes winner on turf. Hopefully, he’ll come along and fill those shoes. We really like him. He’s off to a good start, and we’re excited about him.”
Although Laver seemed destined for a racing career on turf, the G. Watt Humphrey homebred colt made the transition to dirt after a pair of promising turf starts due to the lack of opportunities on turf during the fall in Kentucky.
“Centre Court was all turf. Everything she did was on turf and Navratilova, his sibling, was all turf. We thought that was what he was. His first two starts were on turf,” Arnold said. “Turf racing was kind of sketchy in Kentucky this fall, so it was hard to run on the turf unless you shipped out of town because of the condition of the turf at Churchill – they had problems with it – and Keeneland wasn’t using theirs because they were protecting it for the Breeders’ Cup.”
Laver, who finished second in his debut at Ellis Park and ran an even fifth in the $500,000 Juvenile at Kentucky Downs, made a four-wide move into the stretch to take the lead in his dirt debut at Keeneland before settling for second. The son of Bernardini came back to graduate in a one-turn mile maiden race at Churchill Downs, where he raced forwardly and held gamely to prevail while being equipped with blinkers for the first time upon the recommendation of jockey Luis Saez.
“That was Luis’ idea. He thought he got a little lazy on him and thought that he could have won [his dirt debut]. I don’t know if that’s true or not. Luis said to add the blinkers and we did,” Arnold said. “It got him a little more into the race and he ran well, so we’ll keep them on him. We ran him on the dirt and he ran well both starts. If you can keep them on the dirt, that’s what you want to do. Until he changes my mind, we’ll probably stick with that.”
Laver looks the part.
“He’s probably a better-looking horse [than Centre Court]. He’s a little bigger, a little bit stronger. He’s a colt version of her. He’s more correct. He’s a gorgeous horse, actually,” Arnold said. “He probably looks more like his second dam, which is Let, an A. P. Indy. Funny thing, she was all dirt. She never ran on turf at all and produced Centre Court, who was all turf. We’re hoping he takes after the second dam.”
Tyler Gaffalione is scheduled to ride Laver for the first time in the Mucho Macho Man, which drew a full field of 12 sophomores, including the Arnold-trained Fliparino.
Calumet Farm’s Fliparino graduated at first asking in a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight race at Churchill Downs Sept. 22. The son of Honor Code finished a distant third in the 1 1/16-mile Street Sense (G3) following a stumbling start Oct. 30.
Martin Garcia is scheduled to ride Fliparino for the first time.
Vegso Racing Stable’s Lord Miles is scheduled to make his stakes debut in the Mucho Macho Man while making only his second start. The son of Curlin is coming off a 5 ¾-length victory in a six-furlong maiden race Nov. 19 at Gulfstream.
“It wasn’t a fast-run race by the numbers, but it was impressive to me,” trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said. “He’s trained forwardly since. That’s one of the reasons he’s going from a maiden straight to the stake. He’s given us the confidence to do that.”
Lord Miles demonstrated the ability to overcome adversity in his debut.
“He had trained well up to the race. I was a little concerned about how he would break and all of a sudden, he broke on top. I was happy and then in a couple of strides he got outpaced and tasting the dirt, he started climbing. I said, ‘Uh-oh.’ He basically looked beat,” Joseph said. “By the quarter-pole. he made a run, but he didn’t make a run that looked like he was going to win. All of a sudden, when he straightened out and kicked in, he really put the race to bed in a few strides.”
Joseph saddled Lord Miles for his debut with a lot of confidence.
“The way he trained with some 2-year-olds that won already, we thought he was fit enough and showed enough ability to win,” Joseph said. “That wasn’t my thought at the three-eighths pole or the quarter pole, but that was the thought before the race.”
Lord Miles is out of Lady Esme, a half-sister Officiating, the Joseph-trained multiple graded-stakes winner, and a half-sister to the dam of champion 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner and Eclipse champion Caledonia Road.
Edgard Zayas has the mount aboard Lord Miles.
Courtland Farms’ General Jim is scheduled to return to dirt in the Mucho Macho Man following a trio of solid performances on turf. Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, General Jim debuted with a third-place finish in a six-furlong maiden race on dirt at Saratoga and graduated in his second start on turf at Saratoga. He came right back to win an entry level allowance over the Keeneland turf Oct. 29. Most recently, the son of Into Mischief finished a solid third following an extremely wide start in a mile turf event at Aqueduct.
Luis Saez has the return call aboard General Jim.
Daniel Walters, Dennis Smith, Anthony Smith and trainer Rohan Crichton’s Legacy Isle, who has won his two starts going away at Gulfstream; Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Steven Rocco and William Branch’s Baby Billy, an unlucky three-start maiden trained by Jack Sisterson; M Racing Group’s Eyes On the King, a winner of two of three starts at Gulfstream for Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse; and John Grossi’s Racing Corp., Beast Mode Racing LLC and trainer Robert Falcone Jr.’s Mr Bob, runner-up in the Ed Brown stakes at Churchill Downs last time out; are among the most prominent entrants in the Mucho Macho Man.
Alex Andres LLC’s Il Miracolo, Lea Farms LLC’s Live Is Life, Aldana Gonzalez Racing LLC, Lisa Ballou and Steve Ballou’s Dreaming of Kona, and Sherry Jehaludi’s Wine Empire round out the field.