Haskin's Classic Recap: Macho Grande


The following recap is an expanded version of the original that appears in the November 9, 2013 issue of The Blood-Horse.

It couldn’t have ended any other way. There simply was too much magic at work. And everyone who was at Santa Anita on Nov. 2 could feel that magic. The fairy tale journey of Mucho Macho Man and trainer Kathy Ritvo began five years ago, and after watching the towering 5-year-old son of Macho Uno – Ponche de Leona, by Ponche win the $4.6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) and experiencing the emotional aftermath, one had to feel that destiny was guiding the two all the way, and that this special moment in time was preordained.

Shakespeare wrote: “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”

It was Ritvo’s fight for life after being so close to death, stricken with the heart disease cardiomyopathy, a severe deterioration of the heart muscle, and her incredible will to live that brought her and Mucho Macho Man together to share something so special it brought waves of rapturous cheers and, yes, a few tears.

Ritvo had thought this moment would come a year earlier, but a heartbreaking defeat in the Classic seemingly had put an end to the dream.

The wait for the horses to emerge from the tunnel seemed interminable. A woman stood alongside the fence near the gap holding a sign that read, “Team Mucho Macho Man Has Heart (with the heart represented by a bright red heart). The track bugler walked by and when he saw the sign he went over to the woman and began playing the song “Macho Man” by The Village People.

A few minutes later, the horses finally appeared. Ritvo, just as she had done last year, stood by the rail near the gap as the Classic field paraded to the post. Because of her diminutive size, she had to step on a small stool to get a better look. But she was still too far away to see the entire stretch, so she stepped up on a ledge and leaned her body over the rail. When Mucho Macho Man’s name was introduced in the post parade, a cheer went up from the crowd, and even Ritvo applauded her horse with gentle claps.

She could see jockey Gary Stevens, who was on a magical journey himself, move Mucho Macho Man into a perfect position down the backstetch and she could plainly see him gun the big horse to the lead at the five-sixteenths pole, unlike last year when “Macho” was forced to try to get past a stubborn Fort Larned and couldn’t do it, falling a half-length short.

Now, he was in front, with his ears up. Stevens, who has made a remarkable comeback after being retired for seven years, had won the Awesome Again Stakes (gr. I) on his first mount aboard Mucho Macho Man and felt the urge to go to the whip, but refrained, knowing the horse was giving him everything he had and disliked being whipped.

Ritvo began cheering her horse on as he led by daylight inside the eighth pole, but here came another giant of a horse, Travers Stakes (gr. I) winner Will Take Charge, bearing down on him from the far outside, with the Irish invader Declaration of War closing ground in between the two.

When they hit the wire, Ritvo felt confident she had won when she saw Stevens give a little celebratory shake of his whip.

“I think we got it,” she said, looking for affirmation from anyone. “Gary thought he won; he shook his stick. But I don’t know what that means.”

Others around her, however, weren’t as confident. When they showed the replay a gasp went up from the crowd as they hit wire. Could it be that Will Take Charge had stuck his nose in front? Ritvo now began having feelings of déjà vu. Had Mucho Macho Man suffered another heartbreaking defeat? Could fate be so cruel as to lead them here again only to end in failure?

The stretch run was replayed again, and this time Ritvo kept urging her horse on, as if watching the race live.

“Come on, buddy. Come on, buddy,” she pleaded in a soft tone.

When they hit the wire, she turned around and asked no one in particular, “Did he get it?”

Then came a feeling of dread when the camera switched to Will Take Charge on the infield screen just as the unofficial results sign went up. But a second later, the number “6” went up and the announcement was made. Mucho Macho Man had won the 30th Breeders’ Cup Classic. The dream was complete.

Bedlam broke loose, and tears began to well up in Ritvo’s eyes. “I’m so happy for the horse,” she said. “I hope my mother’s watching.”

Ritvo’s mother has been in the hospital for several weeks with heart problems.

Ritvo’s husband, Tim, who is the president and general manager of Gulfstream and who actually trained Mucho Macho Man when the horse broke his maiden, came over and the two embraced.

It’s an amazing story,” Tim said. “She fought to live for her kids. She’s worked for this her whole life and she deservers every minute of it. This is all about her. She’s done such a great job with this horse. It’s unbelievable. She’s been through so much. She was dead, I’m telling you; she was dead. That’s how bad she was. This is just a wonderful wonderful thing.”

The Ritvo’s two children, Dominique, 21, and Michael, 19, had to endure their mother’s debilitating illness starting when they were 9 and 7.

“They lived through the worst of it and were always very supportive.” Tim said.

Michael, who aspires to be a rider, walked around as if in a daze, a perpetual smile on his face.

“It’s just so amazing, seeing her in the hospital, almost dead, to this, the pinnacle of racing,” he said. “It was so awful to see her like that, lying on the floor in the hospital, sick, sick, sick all the time. She’s the best. She’s an inspiration. I’m just so happy for her.”

The story of Ritvo and Mucho Macho Man and Stevens and majority owners Dean and Patti Reeves have so many intertwining plot lines it would difficult to make it up and get away with it.

The story began in 2008, as Ritvo lay in a hospital bed in Miami Fla., hooked up to an IV of dopamine, a heart muscle stimulant that was keeping her alive. In 2000, she had gotten pregnant with their third child and was almost five months along when she was diagnosed with her illness and the pregnancy had to be terminated.

“The way she was living was unbearable,” Tim said. “Her legs were blown up like tree stumps. She was hooked up to the IV for seven months. But she had this unbelievable will to live to see the kids go to school and grow up and eventually get married. That’s what kept her going”

Ritvo’s daily regimen of medication sounded like drugs gone wild – 12 anti-rejection pills at 7:30 every morning, 15 vitamins at noon, and eight more anti-rejection pills at 7:30 at night.

As Ritvo struggled to stay alive, some 250 miles away in Ocala, Fla., a strapping bay colt was born on June 15 at Carole and John Rio’s farm that they leased, unusually late for a Thoroughbred. The 9-year-old Ponche de Leona had been three weeks overdue and the Rios were staying up day and night waiting for her to foal.

It was Father’s Day when the Rios were returning to the farm after attending to Carole’s champion miniature pinchers and received a call from farm manager Jeff Sekay telling them the mare was foaling.

“Oh damn,” said Carole, who didn’t like foaling mares out in the field.

When they arrived, Sekay and his wife were standing over the foal’s seemingly lifeless body and were praying. After several minutes and no sign of life, the foal was feared dead. Carole started rubbing him and then stopped and began praying herself.

“Just then, this sucker jumped up and started running across the field,” Carole said. “He didn’t walk, he ran. From that day on I started calling him Lazarus. I remember saying to my husband, ‘Well, here’s your Father’s Day present.’ And he said, ‘We’ll find out in two years how good of a gift it is.’”

Five months later, on Nov. 13, as the weanling colt, later to be named Mucho Macho Man, romped about in his paddock, Ritvo also “rose” from the dead following a successful heart transplant, for which she had been waiting for what seemed an interminable amount of time. When she awoke from anesthesia, she took a deep breath, something she hadn’t been able to do for years, and in six months was back at the racetrack training horses.

As if in a movie script, Ritvo and Mucho Man Man would one day unite and embark on a journey that would lead them to a third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and two years later to the winner’s circle of America’s richest horserace.

As Michael said, “The horse had his rebirth and my mom had hers, and look what they’ve done with it.”

That ended the first chapter of the Mucho Macho Man story. The second chapter began when the colt was purchased from the Rios by Jim Culver of Dream Team One Racing. Culver had watched the colt develop and grow and had a feeling he would be something special. When he was entered for his career debut at Calder, trained at the time by Bill White, he had to be scratched when the horse in the stall next to him flipped in the gate and he got nicked up enough to be withdrawn by the veterinarian.

When he was entered back seven days later, he finished a strong second to a highly touted colt named Gourmet Dinner. At the time, the Reeves’ were looking to buy a young horse and had been touted on Gourmet Dinner. Dean watched the tape of the race with the intention of purchasing the colt, but after the race he uttered the words that would change his and Patti’s life forever: “I like the second horse.” So, he contacted Culver and bought majority interest in Mucho Macho Man, eventually buying out Dream Team One Racing.

“Had he started that first time and not been scratched, I truly believe he would have won and the Reeves never would have seen him in the maiden race with Gournet Dinner,” Carole Rio said. “It was in the cards for the Reeves to own him and Kathy to train him. He just was meant to be where he is.”

When Mucho Macho Man was a yearling in 2009, the Rios consigned Ponche de Leona to the Ocala Breeders’ October mixed sale, a move Carole was against. She felt even worse when, because of a miscommunication regarding the mare’s reserve, she sold for only $5,000. But because of legal issues surrounding her new owner, Carole was able to buy her back, enabling that chapter to have a happy ending as well.

The Reeves were Tim Ritvo’s clients and they gave him the horse to train. While Tim was up in New York, Kathy was helping out at the barn in Florida. It was Kathy who went to White’s barn and vetted him for the sale, along with Dr. Scott Hay. After the deal was completed, she galloped the colt for a couple of days and fell in love with him. She then sent him to Tim in New York. When Tim took the job at Gulfstream shortly after, he convinced the Reeves to keep the horse with Kathy and one of the sport’s great marriages was born.

Mucho Macho Man’s 5-year-old campaign was compromised by a virus and bacterial infection early in the year. While training for the Met Mile (gr. I) he suffered a quarter crack and was forced to miss the race. After returning and finishing third in the Criminal Type Stakes and Whitney Invitational Handicap (gr. I), it was decided to put Gary Stevens up and send the horse to Santa Anita to prep for the Classic in the Awesome Again Stakes (gr. I).

Stevens, who had been struggling with pain for several years, was involved in a horrific spill at Arlington Park that could easily have cost him his life, but he made an amazing comeback from that near-tragic incident. He continued to live with extreme pain in his knees before finally retiring in 2005. Over the years he briefly trained horses, was racing manager for Prince Ahmed’s The Thoroughbred Corp, was an advisor to IEAH Stables, worked as a TV analyst for several networks, and even acted in movies and television, getting excellent reviews for his roles in the film “Seabiscuit” and the short-lived TV series “Luck,” in which he played veteran washed-up jockey Ronnie Jenkins, who had turned to alcohol following a bad spill.

Following Luck’s cancellation, Stevens, remarkably, after seven years, decided to come out of retirement, as if continuing his role as Ronnie Jenkins, intent on proving to the world he still could ride with the best of them. To most everyone’s amazement, Stevens returned as strong and as fiercely competitive as he had been back in his glory days of the 1990s. He lost none of his strength and timing and his comeback was an immediate success, highlighted by his victory aboard Oxbow in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I). His fellow jockeys were amazed he could come back off such a long layoff at the age of 50 and compete at the same high level he had seven years earlier.

Now, here he was aboard a horse who had an excellent chance to give him his first Breeders’ Cup Classic victory.

Mucho Macho Man had a unique record going into the Awesome Again. Since his career debut at Calder he was six-for-six when he had the lead at the eighth pole and 0-for-14 when he didn’t. Stevens gunned him to the front on the far turn and drew off to a 4 1/4-length victory. Now, Mucho Macho Man was seven-for-seven when he had the lead at the eighth pole. The strategy for the Classic seemed pretty simple.

The Classic attracted a deep and talented field of 11 with the scratch of Ron the Greek due to a quarter crack.

Sent off at 4-1, Mucho Macho Man actually outbroke the field and held the lead briefly until Stevens took him back and let him settle off the pace in fourth.

“He left there like a Quarter-horse,” Stevens said. “I could have put him on the lead, but he’s so push-button, I just slid my hands back a little bit and he shut it down. It’s exactly what I wanted him to do.”

Game On Dude, the 8-5 favorite went to the front, as expected, dogged by Moreno and Fort Larned. After a quarter in :23.39, Moreno took a short lead over Fort Larned, as Game On Dude slipped back to third, followed by Declaration of War, who was showing excellent speed in his dirt debut under jockey Joseph O’Brien, son of trainer Aidan O’Brien. Mucho Macho Man was right alongside, as they hit the half in a solid :46.36.

As they rounded the far turn, Fort Larned had a half-length lead over Moreno and Game On Dude, with Mucho Macho Man ready to pounce from the far outside. Declaration of War was hanging tough behind horses, as Palace Malice, who had broken slowly and dropped back to last early, made a bold move to reach contention, with Will Take Charge being pushed along behind him. Palace Malice was ridden by Rafael Bejarano, who replaced John Velazquez, who was taken to the hospital following a spill in the Juvenile Fillies (gr. I).

Passing the five-sixteenths pole, Mucho Macho Man cruised up to take the lead from Fort Larned, as Moreno and then Game On Dude began to drop out of it. Fort Larned hung tough and put up a fight, and it looked to be between the same two Classic antagonists as last year. Mucho Macho Man was too much this time and continued to ease clear with his ears up. Will Take Charge was now flying on the far outside, with Declaration of War, still on his left lead, closing fast as well. The three hit the wire in a photo, with Mucho Macho Man getting the narrowest of decisions over Will Take Charge, who was a head in front of Declaration of War. It was another 3 1/4 lengths back to Fort Larned in fourth. The final time for the 1 1/4 miles was 2:00.72.

Ritvo had become the first female trainer to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“Kathy and Finn (racing manager Finn Green) have worked on this all year to come back and make up that half-length,” Dean Reeves said. “It’s pretty special. We love this horse. There are a lot of people that get a lot of smiles every day thinking about Mucho Macho Man.”

Patti added, “When we went to the Derby we invited fans to come along on the ride. We were so new in the horse racing business ourselves and we wanted all the fans along with us, so we started a Facebook page for the horse and Twitter, and they just started following and coming.”

As Dean Reeves walked back through the tunnel, Wayne Lukas, trainer of Will Take Charge, came over to shake his hand, but was noticeably crushed by the defeat.

“That one tore me up,” he said.

Aidan O’Brien, who had won the Turf (gr. IT) with Magician, was thrilled with Declaration of War’s performance, as well as the ride by his son.

“He ran a great race and he fought all the way to the wire,” he said. “I would like to thank my team (at Coolmore) for letting me run him here. It’s a privilege to be here. Joseph did everything right on the horse.”

Emotions continued to run high well after the race. Dean Reeves’ sister, Camilla Ellenburg, wept as she hugged her brother, and then sought a spiritual meaning to Mucho Macho Man’s victory.

“It’s just amazing,” she said. “The Lord had him wrapped around his arm, that’s all I can tell you. He knew.”

Mike Sivo, who owns a minority share in Mucho Macho Man with his wife
Laura, said, “I’m in shock; I’m totally in shock. I’m still shaking my head.”

Laura wrote on Facebook the following day, “When you're a little fish in a big pond in the ‘Sport of Kings’ it is good to feel like a king, if only for a day. Our journey with Mucho Macho Man started over two years ago and it has been the ride of a lifetime. I couldn't have more gratitude for the experience, and I couldn't be happier for this magnificent horse and dedicated trainer Kathy Ritvo.”

Meanwhile, in Ocala, Carole Rio watched the Classic at a local restaurant and was extremely confident, but for an unusual reason.

“My miniature pincher, who is ranked number 3 in the country won her record 108th Best in Show on that same Friday and Saturday, and when I got the text she had won I knew Mucho Macho Man was going to win, because every time she wins a Best in Show, he comes right back and wins a race immediately afterward,” Rio said. “It’s unbelievable.

“I had such tunnel vision watching the race I didn’t even know it was a photo. I just started celebrating. I was sobbing with tears of joy. It’s an indescribable feeling for small-time breeders like ourselves. I just started thinking of him laying in that field, and everyone believing he was dead. And then there was the time the vet had to cut a canker out of his foot. I remember it like it was yesterday. You can’t make this stuff up. I’m just so proud of him.”

The bond between humans and horses has been romanticized for centuries. Who can explain why Mucho Macho Man and Kathy Ritvo were destined to travel the same path in life and why that path led them to glory on racing’s biggest stage? From a physical standpoint, Ritvo is dwarfed by the towering Mucho Macho Man, but their hearts, which once had seemingly gone silent, now beat as one. And nothing as mundane as a photo finish camera was going to deny this fairy tale its happy ending.

Following a group photo in the winner’s circle, Michael Ritvo, walked off by himself, and suddenly it hit him:

“My mom won the Breeders’ Cup Classic.”

Sometimes, a simple revelation can have such profound meaning.

But it was Dean Reeves who summed up this magical day best and put everything in proper perspective.

“I’m just so happy for Macho,” he said. “He’s part of racing history now.”

91 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Old Timer

Steve, wonderful article. This year's BC Classic was one of the best ever. Thank you for putting it all in perspective so well.

04 Nov 2013 8:46 PM
kincsem

Such a nice story. Wow - MMM was a June foal and he still got third in the Derby. Such a wonderful horse and a testament to the Holy Bull sire line. Hopefully, the breeding industry will take Mucho Macho Man seriously...

04 Nov 2013 8:58 PM
Cassandra.Says

Dry your eyes and sign your driver's licence.

04 Nov 2013 9:20 PM
Fran

what an absolutely wonderful, true story about such an awesome group of people.  Congratulations a million times to everyone, and thank you Mr. Haskin for an outstanding article on MMM and his entire family.

04 Nov 2013 10:19 PM
Linda in Texas

Steve, there is nothing left to say. The traps set along their ways to the winner's circle are innumerable. How many times they all could have given up and thrown in the towel. Mucho Macho Man looked mahvelous. He truly put it all together on Saturday for a rousting finale at the wire.

And to hang in there for Mucho Macho Man by his owners and to never give up on Kathy, makes me feel so honored to have been able to even watch the whole story unfold. From the 'dead' foal to Kathy in 'death' mode and then her heart transplant, for the children, her husband, I mean  what a sweet story. I will never forget it. And i wish everyone involved congratulations on a fine and deserved win. It cannot get any better than this.

And yes, there are Racing Gods!

Thank you Steve. You tell it the best.

04 Nov 2013 10:36 PM
captainsmistress

You really can't make this stuff up. I wish all of America could read this story and feel so good! We need stories like this; stories that make us proud, make us cry, make us really feel! Thanks Steve, for another one. These are such deserving people; such a glorious horse! A story for the ages...Mucho Macho Man! I hope Will Take Charge stays in training, stays healthy, and shows them all his heels next year! Great Blazin' Boy!!!

04 Nov 2013 10:44 PM
Zen4Zen

I love every piece you write, Steve, but this brought tears to my eyes.  It's a heartwarming and magical story that only a dedicated, hard-working reporter (you've unearthed such great details!) and true horse lover could write.

04 Nov 2013 10:52 PM
Heather Seiden

Great story, Steve.  It's been wonderful to see these great people achieve such success... and Mucho Macho Man.  What a horse...

05 Nov 2013 12:00 AM
Mike Sekulic

Steven Haskin is an amazing writer capable of telling the most beautiful stories in the most touching way. This is yet one more example of that. Great job.

05 Nov 2013 12:15 AM
JayJay

Excellent article.

05 Nov 2013 12:20 AM
TimberRT

Well it was a great Breeders Cup. I work very long 12 shift hours at night and was working last weekend. Watched that race 3 times on my breaks on my phone. When I was getting off Sunday morning one of my race horse friends asked me if I had seen it. So just have one question here. I did hit the trefecta on the Distaff. The Princess never fired and looked to me like she might have slammed into the gate at the break. Is she okay? Haven't heard anything about her. Still love her and hope she is alright. Hope Steve that you can get some updates on her soon. First time on a plane and I felt they should have shipped her sooner if they really wanted to make a go of that race. Looking forward to next year and Mucho Macho winning again.Just wish they had a more central track for the Breeders Cup.

05 Nov 2013 6:33 AM
Kelso1966

I couldn't be happier--a fairy tale ending really.  This is what makes TB racing so great.

05 Nov 2013 7:12 AM
lunar spook

NICE FEEL GOOD STORY , CONGRATS TO THE MMM TEAM ! I THOUGHT CONSIDERING HE HAD NOT RUN ON DIRT AND TRAVELED ALL THOSE MILES AND HAD A LONG LAY OFF , DECLARATION OF WAR PUT UP A GREAT FIGHT, HATE THAT HES RETIRING , BUT U WILL BE HEARING FROM HIS OFFSPRING IN YEARS TO COME TRUST ME ! ONCE AGAIN WE FIND OUT HOW GROSSLY OVER RATED GAME ON DUDE IS , EVERY TIME HE FACES ANY COMPETITION WHATSOEVER HE FOLDS LIKE A WAL-MART TENT !

05 Nov 2013 8:14 AM
Stellar Jayne

Macho Grande, indeed!  Thanks for this wonderful tribute to Mucho Macho Man, Kathy and the entire team.  I think most of us had no idea he had had so many health issues.  Hopefully they are all behind him.  Do you think they will keep in training for next year?

For me too, it was a marvelous day seeing my two favorite guys - MMM come in first and Will Take Charge in second.  I have loved these two giant colts from the beginning of their individual careers.  Their is just something about them that jumps out at me.  Win or lose they give it their all, they always show up.  Perhaps next year, if WTC is kept in training, he will win the Classic?

Again, thank you for all your great articles.  Rest up for next year!

05 Nov 2013 9:40 AM
Mister Frisky

Great win for team MMM,virtually the last man standing from the 3 year olds of 2011.Gary Stevens is in the Hall of Fame because of over 25 years of rides like that over the Santa Anita strip,no one rides a stalker or front ender better than him.Got to get a Game On Dude blast before signing off.Never has horse racked up G1 wins and a multimillion $ bankroll without consistently beating real racehorses.The Dude was in shock when tomato cans Kettle Corn,John Scott,and Clubhouse Ride were nowhere to be found on Saturday.When he saw G1 winners inside and out that's when he spit it out early,sorry ladies no corazon for The Dud.

05 Nov 2013 9:56 AM
Stellar Jayne

Steve,

Just a quick question - how did Paynter come out of the race?  I hope he is okay.  Flat Out seemed to be making an effort mid-pack, but faded back close to Paynter.  I hope both are well.

05 Nov 2013 10:02 AM
txhorsefan

Simply this - a beautiful story told as only you can weave in all the details, emotions that we like to read.  Thanks so much.  Made me cry.

Celeste

05 Nov 2013 10:33 AM
trackjack

Great wrap-up Steve, thanks.  Your gifts shine through this article.  If someone is thinking of turning this story into a motion picture, they better come to you first as adviser/screenwriter.  Your contrast of 'Lazarus' jumping up and running across the field with Kathy Ritvo's struggle with cardiomyopathy, warms the heart.

Congratulations to all the connections of Mucho Macho Man.  Job well done!  Minority share owners Mike Sivo and his wife Laura are local residents and Laura is a local veterinarian.

Thanks again, Steve, for all your information, pics and stories for this Breeders' Cup.  I've never been to Santa Anita but have next year's BC on my bucket list.  

05 Nov 2013 11:10 AM
derbylin

Trevor Denman can add his "unbelievable" call to this one too!  That was one of the most exciting races I have ever seen.

Wonderfully written story, Steve. You just have to cheer for connections like that as well as for the horse. They will do what is right for the horse, but I do hope he comes back next year.

05 Nov 2013 11:14 AM
steve from st louis

Steve, saw you standing next to Ritvo at the finish on TV. You never chase after empty wagons, do you? The story is a great one as was the race, even though I was all over Will Take Charge getting the four pounds.

It's really sad that the Breeders Cup fails to attract much of an national audience on television. The sport we all love is declining each year and something needs to change to increase interest in the Sport of Kings.

Many people flock to Nascar in search of an incredible accident, but one happens in racing and the sport is chastized and denigrated. Something big has to be integrated into the telecast to attract the casual viewer.

05 Nov 2013 11:25 AM
slee

I echo Cassandra.Says' note - sign your driver's license.  Be a donor.  Kathy Ritvo would be dead if somebody hadn't signed theirs.

Miracles happen every day - be a part of one - give somebody back all their tomorrows!!!!!!!

05 Nov 2013 11:40 AM
Old Old Cat

Steve,

I wanted to respond to another one of your articles, but it was POWERED BY DISCUS.  I will not give my personal information out to a fly by night company.  Please do not allow it on any more of your articles.

Thank you

05 Nov 2013 11:53 AM
GJU

Once again, Steve, you brought tears to my eyes with your magnificent writing! I'd been waiting for your story on the 'Classic. Can't wait to get my BloodHorse magazine!

05 Nov 2013 11:56 AM
Larry in Miami

Steve --- I thought the Classic was a $5M race.Your article + the official chart said it was only worth $4.6M. Please explain. Thanks.

05 Nov 2013 12:06 PM
Wrensflight

Steve, thank you. Once again your eloquence lights up the magic that is so much a part of this sport.

I am as thrilled for Gary Stevens as much as I am for Mucho Macho Man and his connections. Being an old, broken rider myself, it is inspirational to see the incredible comeback Gary is making. The right horse and right people won the Classic. So good to see that happen.

05 Nov 2013 12:27 PM
Will

Steve, the racing public needs a story about how a guy with 13 knee surgeries who took the shark cartilage tablets they were giving to race horses to get a few more years out of his riding career was able to come back after 7 years of retirement and quickly ride again in middle age at an elite level. If Stevens did not abuse himself during his 7 years away from riding, I can believe that he could recover his strength by serious weight training and 7 years away is not long enough to completely loose your timing. Still I remember him riding in a Legends race a few years ago, having trouble, and remarking that he was too far gone to try that again. Serious knee damage and injury does not get better with age, and Stevens had two bad knees not just one. I'm floored he can ride again at this level with knee problems of this order. If all Gary had to overcome was shedding a few pounds and he was basically a clean liver who had not abused himself while away from the game, that's one thing. Yet to do it with his level of knee damage is beyond remarkable. As Migliore said on the air, this is not just a story about an amazing racing comeback, but about one of the all time great sport's comebacks ever. Please shed some light on how Gary pulled this off. Maybe something as well about Johnny Velasquez since his spleen removal could put an end to the career of one of the game's all time great riders and rob the racing public of the pleasure of viewing this remarkable talent ride so many great horses in racing's premier races. Velasquez's injury was the great downer, the nadir of the Breeders Cup event and the offset to the ailing, good as dead Ritvo's stirring training success with Mucho Macho Man after literally - like the horse she trained - returning from the dead.

05 Nov 2013 1:17 PM
YourFriendJimbo

Larry, the purse includes $400,000 given out in travel awards via the "Win and You're In" BC Challenge races. Qualifying American horses get $10,000 in travel paid and international horses get $40,000. Back that out and you've got $4.6 million that is paid like traditional purse money based on order of finish.

05 Nov 2013 1:25 PM
Doodge

Oh Geez, I can't see to type.  Thanks for sharing such a remarkable story so eloquently.

05 Nov 2013 1:46 PM
lunar spook

PLAY FRISKY FOR ME - I agree with u on game on dude , very over rated , he was backed by  his usual group, baffert worshippers ,fans who like his "cool" name , santa anita homers , and the hot lil female railbirds who don't know a breeders cup from a bra cup !

05 Nov 2013 1:58 PM
Ranagulzion

Steve,

Great wrap-up of one of the most exciting Breeder's Cup Classic in its 30 years history. You called it right regarding Mucho Macho Man's record of never losing a race when he leads at the eighth pole ...Will Take Charge and Declaration of War certainly tested him to the hilt. Don't you agree that this was one of the best renewals of the race, considering the furious pace (not crazy fast but grade 1 quality), the jostle for position on and off the far turn and then that spectacular stretch battle to the wire ...totally breathtaking!!! This is the kind of quality racing that brings in new fans and gives resillience to those fed up with the ills of racing ...don't you think?

One has to acknowledge a couple of other gutsy performances like Fort Larned who took it to the upstart Moreno and put a scorcher on HOTY pretender Game on Dude. Then there is the rank outsider, Last Gunfighter, who ran the race of his life to get that decent $150,000 piece of the pie ...kudos to his connections and jockey.

Playfriskyforme 05 Nov 2013 9:56 AM

i agree with you concerning Game on Dude.  HOTY voters should learn from this that the quality of opposition and tracks competed at, are components of a HOTY campaign ...not merely accumulating Grade 1 against sub-par opposition. Wise Dan remains the king.  

05 Nov 2013 2:04 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Is it true that Gary Stevens owes his incredible strength and extraordinary instincts during the comeback at his advanced age to eating a lot of M&M's ?  And is it also true that is why Kathy Chose him as her jockey because he loves M&M's ? Is it also true that M&M's is considering changing the name of their famous candy to M&M&M's to honor the great Mucho Macho Man? Muy bueno Steve. Magnifico article. Glad you had a front row seat. Did you have some mucho good food too?

05 Nov 2013 2:19 PM
Anncat

A comment and a couple of questions.  1. I timed the NBC broadcast to see how soon they actually began talking about and showing the HORSES.  It was close to 25 minutes into the broadcast when they finally got around to the subject of interest to me.  I almost turned it off and I am a faithful racing fan, not a bettor.  No wonder the ratings are lousy.

2. Who decides which connections to horses you join and follow for a particular race?  

When I saw you with MMM's connections, I was curious, because there are always great stories about the Breeders Cup races (as well as the Triple Crown and other "big" races).  I'm glad you were with Ritvo and so glad that MMM finally won a big one.  

05 Nov 2013 2:29 PM
Victoria

I think I see a potential book with your name on it, Steve.  Wonderful article and beautifully told story.  This really should be both a movie and a book.

If you have any pals at NBC, please let them know that some of us thought pulling away from Kathy Ritvo to talk with her husband right during her big moment after the race seemed a bit sexist, no doubt unintentionally, but it came across as them treating her like a "little lady" who wouldn't have gotten anywhere without her husband.  I can't recall anything similar being done when a male trainer has won.  They spent about as much time talking to him, as they did to her.

Also, bad decision on NBC's part to skip the winner's circle ceremonies and race replay with Gary Stevens.  Lots of us were actually looking forward to seeing this.  This is how you build fans.

05 Nov 2013 2:59 PM
TizAllie

It's one thing to watch the race, but it's dessert when Steve Haskin gives his race recap. Loved learning the entire story and feeling all the emotion involved.

As far as Paynter goes. Just saw a photograph of him at Winstar Farm and he looks really good.

05 Nov 2013 3:05 PM
Steve Haskin

Thank you, everyone for your comments. I really appreciate it. That was quite an emotional trip. I'm so happy for everyone involved with Mucho Macho Man, and, of course. for the big guy himself.

Thanks, Jayne. I havent had a chance yet to check on Paynter, but I will shortly.

St. Louie Steve, I try to choose my wagons carefully and I thank Kathy for not watching from the box. And, sadly, you are right about the BC viewership. I dont understand it. It seems people watch when we have a super media star, but comes rarely. I wish they would tune in just to watch great racing.

Old Old Cat, I'm not sure what you are reffering to.

Will, ironically, Johhny V's agent, Angel Cordero was forced to retire after having his spleen removed. Kinda eery.

05 Nov 2013 3:15 PM
TizAllie

Steve, since Harlan Holiday's early passing, am wondering what you think about shuttling throughbred stallions. Would love an article on this subject.

05 Nov 2013 3:16 PM
lunar spook

NBC might actually improve their ratings when they discover racing fans wanna here about tactics and horses not about what color hats the Hollywood a-list is wearing or what exotic dish bobby flay prepared for the billionaires boys club !!!

05 Nov 2013 3:21 PM
Steve Haskin

Gracias, Dr. D., I'm sorry I missed that aspect of the story. I'll bet MMM would love M&Ms.

Victoria, I havent seen the show yet, but Kathy can be a bit shy and is not a big talker. Her comments on a public forum are usually made with very few words. She's much better one on one. Perhaps they were aware of that and after getting her initial reaction went to Tim, who could put iti all into persepctive from a different viewpoint.

05 Nov 2013 3:22 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

M&M&M's- Extra large size, once you get to the eighth pole there is still plenty left in the bag.

05 Nov 2013 3:27 PM
smartydeb

I also saw Steve standing near the winner's circle with Kathy Ritvo and knew we would get a great story out of it!  

NBC's numbers are down because they continue to ignore the REAL stories behind these races, they focus on stupid stuff like Richie Sambora doing the call to the post on his guitar and Kristen Chenowith butchering that song.  The story of Kathy Ritvo, MMM and Gary Stevens are the REAL stories, the ones that people would like to hear about.  

NBC has no one to blame but themselves, they are missing the real stories and continue to use incompetant announcers like Tom Hammond.  The man acted like he didn't even know where he was, even once saying that one filly was the only one in the Filly and Mare Turf.  Even Randy Moss slapped him on the back and corrected him, that they were all fillies and mares in that race.

Great feel-good story above, Steve, thanks, as always!

05 Nov 2013 3:28 PM
murphyforever

A wonderful story with a happy ending; better than a movie. When we were at BC and our horse (MMM)won, many in the parking lot were singing Mucho Macho Man. A fitting ending to a great BC weekend.

05 Nov 2013 4:23 PM
Signal

Verazano sure been exposed at the Breeders' Cup, somebody has to understand that there is no gimme outside of fake G1 , 5 horses field

with 2-3 alw horses in there.

But someone call him the best horse

in the U.S., need to learn more

05 Nov 2013 4:31 PM
arlingtonfan

When Mucho got to the lead, I started screaming so loudly, my mom's neighbors must have wondered what was going on! What a race! Three cheers for Mucho, Kathy, and Gary.

05 Nov 2013 4:59 PM
Karen in Indiana

Thank you, Steve, for such a story. Hopefully, we'll see all the connections at least one more year. It would be wonderful if they could make it to Dubai!

Smartydeb, I'm with you 100% on NBC's coverage. It was obvious Tom Hammond is not a follower of horse racing and was reading from que cards or a teleprompter. They are wasting Lafitt Pincay - he's young, personable, knows the trainers and the horses and could give more background information on them just off the top of his head than the rest of the crew did with research. If they want to know why their coverage with their target demographic is so low, they need to look at their announcers and their focus. Do they do fluff pieces like that for the NBA playoffs or the Super Bowl or the World Series? No, they treat those as serious sports and have announcers who love the game and know the stats. Horse racing deserves the same respect.

05 Nov 2013 5:18 PM
Karen in Indiana

P.S., Steve. Gary mentioned your statistics about MMM's position at the eighth pole in his post race interview with Donna Brothers. While he didn't come right and state 'Steve Haskin says', I could hear you talking when he said it.

05 Nov 2013 5:23 PM
Steve Haskin

Karen in Indiana, actually I was honored and flattered when Gary saw me after the post-race press conference and smiled and said, "Thank you. Believe it or not, I was thinking of you turning into the stretch. I knew I had to get to the lead by the eighth pole" i have to say that made me feel good.

05 Nov 2013 5:53 PM
Steve Haskin

Also, Karen, my friend Ernie Munick, who was filming for the BC, was standing right next to me when Gary said that and flipped out. He couldn't believe it.

05 Nov 2013 5:56 PM
Alex'sBigFan

Beautifully written recap of the BC Classic Steve.  Kathy, Gary, and MMM himself are simply amazing individuals, just amazing.  They are all inspirational.  I am happy for all 3 of them, they deserve every bit of the glory for their accomplishments.

The horses gave us a thrilling Classic.  Paynter is still a winner and will go on now to make little Paynts.  Feel bad for G.O.D. but it was not his race to win.  He seems like such a sweet horse to be around.  

I feel terrible about the bright, young, promising filly, Secret Compass, bred by Rob Whiteley.  She lost her life in the BC just as Pine Island did and George Washington.  I hope Johnny V gets well soon and is back in the saddle again.  On TVG Friday's BC preview, Simon Bray said Secret Compass' work was the best he saw out of all of them.  What a shame that had to happen, it put a damper on the whole day.  

Wise Dan, awesome.  HOY again if you ask me.  Will Take Charge won Steve's battle within the battle for the 3 yr. olds.  He was right up there with the older MMM, we are talking inches, so kudos to WTC as well.

And Steve!  NBC showed you standing right next to Kathy Ritvo in the Winner's Circle, right where you belong.  

05 Nov 2013 6:32 PM
ceil rock

Someone asked about Paynter. He has already arrived at WinStar Farm to begin his stud career. WinStar posted a couple of beautiful pictures of him on their Facebook page.

05 Nov 2013 7:09 PM
Lammtarra's Arc

Well written Mr.Haskin's.  I can definately see a movie made out of this.  How could they not?.  This story is better then Red, Biscuit, Phar Lap, Mine that Bird etc etc.  Combining 3 elements.  MMM and his journey in life, Ms.Ritvo for her courageous battle, and Mr.Stevens for his incredible comeback.  This movie would blow regualr mainstream garbage out of the theatre!.  I have been in the Mucho Macho man Camp since his run in the Remsen in 2010.  I bet him to win in every race since.  When he ran in the derby the media did a nice job making people aware of the MMM/Kathy Ritvo backgrounds and it seemed to be received well by the Public. Now didn't get NBC's coverage here in Toronto,did they even talk at length about the background story on Ms.Ritvo or MMM?.  Now seeing as the makers of 50-1 were on the Scene, I could see them writing a truly great movie about this fairtale ending. Cheers.

05 Nov 2013 8:07 PM
TripleCrownKaren

Steve;

Thanks for this on one of my favorite horses!  I've been in love with this horse since I saw him as a 2 yr old.....and with Kathy Ritvo..well....she just made me more of a fan in rooting for the "lady trainer".   While some of us may have things we think are BIG issues in our lives and worry about daily drama.....Kathy R. has had to fight for her life for a LONG time.    She and MUCHO MACHO MAN deserved this win more than anyone i can think of.    The hell she lived through makes most people's problems seem a little petty by comparison.    God Bless TEAM MACHO!   And to Kathy R.....YOU GO GIRL!   :)

05 Nov 2013 8:16 PM
Pedigree Ann

Ceil Rock - It's too bad he was retired. I don't think he had fully recovered his form yet, since he was healing and maturing at the same time. I believe he would have had a much better campaign in '14.

I'm sure glad that Santa Anita discovered where their harrow was hidden and ran it around the surface a few times Saturday. Even so, deep closers like Book Review and Flat Out couldn't make any impact.

I was a big MMM backer after his Triple Crown, because he had performed so well despite being quite immature. I thought he would be king of the hill come his 4yo year, but he still wasn't ready for it and I lost faith. Silly me.

05 Nov 2013 8:48 PM
Paula Higgins

I was crying when Mucho Macho Man won and I have tears in my eyes  now. What a great post Steve! You captured it all perfectly. I saw you standing next to Kathy after the race and I knew we would be getting the most fantastic story in a few days and we did. Very few things in racing have made me as happy as Kathy Ritvo and Mucho Macho Man winning this Breeders Cup Classic. I was thrilled for her and MMM. Both of them are so deserving of this win. I wish that the t.v. network had talked to Kathy more after the race but as Steve said, I think she is shy. She strikes me as someone who is very competent and hardworking but she doesn't like the limelight. The after race press conference was very good and showed some of her very sweet personality. She is a lovely person. I was very happy for Gary Stevens also. He is pretty remarkable and a heck of a jockey. The Reeves and Sivos are wonderful people and from the metro Atlanta area, which was the icing on the cake for me. They are trying to get racing started in Georgia from what I have heard. I think it is wonderful that they, and their manager Finn, were willing to give a woman a chance with their horse at this level of competition. As Finn said, she is the most underrated trainer in the business.

I felt terrible for Bob Baffert in spite of his two wins. The loss of his filly was a shock. Then Game On Dude didn't fire and give Mucho Macho Man a run. Mike Smith was at a loss to figure out what happened. I really think GoD was up against a tougher field and he just couldn't compete with them.

I am glad to see here Paynter has retired. It is time and he deserves it.

05 Nov 2013 9:00 PM
Tiz Herself

Beautiful story - as always Steve. I hope MMM stays in training for next year- so many retirements in the last few days/ months (including the fillies and mares) we need a familiar face in the older division next year!

05 Nov 2013 9:02 PM
smarie

I agree with Anncat, smartydeb and Karen in Indiana on NBC's Breeder's Cup coverage. Again, they missed the boat when it comes to showcasing what is important to racing fans - the horses, their connections and their stories. I don't believe that people who tune into the few times that horse racing is actually televised on network television want to watch Hollywood types talk about themselves yet again. Lose the celebrity pandering, please.

The BC races were very exciting this year. It was wonderful for this old gal to see fellow oldies Mike Smith and Gary Stevens ride so well and win! Mucho Macho Man ran an incredible race in the Classic, as did Will Take Charge and Declaration of War. It was a thrilling finish! I too am very pleased for Kathy Ritvo and her family and for the Reeves family as well. I hope that WTC returns to the races again next year. I think he should win the honor of being this year's top 3 year old male. I never was a Palace Malice fan and IMO, WTC is the superior horse.

The breakdown and loss of Secret Compass was heartbreaking and I extend my sincere sympathy to her owners, trainer and all associated with her. I hope John Velasquez makes a complete recovery and will be back in the saddle in 2014.

I hope that all is well with Princess of Sylmar. One has to wonder when a good horse runs so poorly. As for Game On Dude, he never seems to run like a multiple graded stakes winner in his BC races. I wonder if he'll be retired?

You wrote another masterful article, Mr. Haskin. I am looking forward to the upcoming Eclipse Awards and after that, anticipating the 2014 racing season.

05 Nov 2013 9:10 PM
trackjack

Anncat, lunar spook, smartydeb, Karen in Indiana:

I'll throw my hat into the ring and complain about NBC's coverage also.  I've said it before, NBC is promoting an experience, an event, something to be seen at, NOT one of the best thoroughbred races of the year.  I timed it also.  It was 33 minutes into the one-hour telecast before we actually saw live footage of the horses for the richest race in America, and these were some fleeting shots of a few of the horses, jockeys up, as they moved out to the track for the post parade.  I had to watch Breeders'Cup.com to actually see the horses in the paddock  

With all the cameras NBC had in the paddock and the ability to show these magnificent handicap horses prepare to battle one another, NBC struck out again by using air time to show us talking heads, beautiful people, lavishly prepared food and fluff, fluff, fluff.  No wonder the ratings took a dive.

NBC:

The Breeders' Cup is about the best thoroughbreds competing against one another and the stories that got them there.  If you want ratings and to attract casual sport fans, use your time to show us the horses and encourage the viewers to pick one out; "Who do you like?"

My wife and I enjoyed the two days of racing, and the Classic was one of the most exciting in a long, long time.

Lastly, Steve Haskin knows his way around the finish line and the winner's circle at these major events.  Steve is going to get the story.  Thanks again, Steve.

06 Nov 2013 12:12 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

A year of amazing comebacks. You'd have to use some serious suspension of disbelief to enjoy them if they were fiction movies. There have been others but Kathy Ritvo, Gary Stevens, and Paynter are probably the most unbelievable. Two guys are talking about making a fiction movie about horse racing. "A lady has a heart transplant and then trains a horse to the BC Classic win. "Yeah right, who's gonna believe that."  Ok, how about, "A horse is given a death sentence from colic and laminitis with no chance of recovery and goes on to run in the BC Classic."  I think we'd better come up with something more realistic.  OK, "a jockey is 50 years old, hasn't ridden in seven years, retired with crippling injuries, is a TV commentator, decides to make a comeback and in his first year back wins the Preakness and BC Classic on two different horses."  Oh come on !!!!  Now you're really being ridiculous !!!!  Let's do something a little more believable. No, I like it, and let's make a writer a part of the story too, he gives the jockey some advice and the jockey uses it to help him win, his horse in the Classic lost last year and now comes back to win this year, and the lady with the transplant trains the same horse !!!!!  "You're insane, who's going to believe all that stuff !!!"  No, I like it. It could never happen but it's a heck of a story. Let's do it. You know people can enjoy a good movie no matter how far fetched. Show some imagination buddy. It's muy bueno.

06 Nov 2013 8:35 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Make that-"It's mucho bueno, man. Show some machismo, suspend your disbelief and let's make that movie."

06 Nov 2013 8:43 AM
Will

The comments in this blog from smarty deb and Karen in Indiana about the NBC announcer, Tom Hammond, to the effect that he does not know horse racing, is incompetent, must read off cue cards or teleprompters are ill-informed and way off base. He's been doing the Breeders Cup since its inception as well as many other premier Grade One races for decades and probably longer than those who leveled these criticisms are able to remember. He pairs well and always has for sometime now with Randy Moss and Jerry Bailey. NBC's poor ratings have nothing to do with Hammond, but with the failure to pay full attention to the horses, the trainers, the jockeys, the owners, and race strategy and tactics as others have mentioned. I'm sure if Bailey, Stevens, Moss, Brothers, Battaglia, Durkin, Comiss, Denman, Veitch, and the myriad of other racing personalities Hammond has worked with on air over the decades could put in a word about Tom none would say this man does not know horse racing. Steve's been around long enough to attest to the truth of that.

06 Nov 2013 10:02 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Steve is like the cornerman in a championship fight. "You're behind on points so this is it. Now remember what I told you kid. You gotta have the lead at the eighth pole. Can you remember that? Now get out there and knock em out."

   Gary Stevens could star in his own movie and they could use real footage. What a guy, what a story. One of the greatest men and riders of all time, and what a story of heart, grit, determination, skill, strength, intelligence, instincts and the ability to process all of the information available and incorporate it into his ride. Gary Stevens deserves every bit of any success he gets. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

06 Nov 2013 11:01 AM
ksweatman9

I was happy for all the winners and their connections. I really wanted Paynter to have a great run before he retired, but a safe run is a success. Illness just takes too much from these equine athletes. That's why I hate it when fans say demeaning things about the ponies, especially those who have battled illness, Uncle Mo, Paynter. Speaking about illness and injury, how about a horse who is young and sound, but throwing the towel in? Orb, really a surprise. Thought they would at least wait and see how he runs next year. It's hard to know what causes these talented horses to run brilliantly through the triple crown races then fall flat, must be a curse of some sort. Beautiful animal, Orb. Sad to see him leave, but he will forever be a Kentucky Derby winner, forever & always. Good luck to all those retiring this year. Thank you for the memories, love you all.

06 Nov 2013 11:10 AM
mz

Nice to read a feel good story (even tho my Moreno ran as far as he could as long as he could).

Thank you Steve for good news.  Considering what we Torontonians have been going through with Crack Mayor, I needed something like this.

p.s.  if you think NBC coverage is nuts, try it up here.  Flitting between three or four channels and my IPad to try to see something!  Saw the Classic at a Bar with my phone in my ear running the commentary.  

06 Nov 2013 11:47 AM
lunar spook

WILL - I agree with u about tom Hammond , I think the problem many folks are having (me included) is how N B C SPORTS turns the production into a garden party fall gala and the races are just an after thought , but YES I like tom Hammond but hes just a puppet on nbc's string , I liked it better when ESPN HAD THE FULL COVERAGE , I LIKE RANDY MOSS as a color man !

06 Nov 2013 11:51 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Steve

   You had a great year, and just like Kathy Ritvc, Mucho Macho Man, and Gary Stevens, you and they deserve all of the accolades you and they get. You all have a lot of talent and really big hearts.

    There is a lot of good people on this blog too. Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year to everyone. Hopefully I'll see you all at the Derby Dozen, and we'll get our Triple Crown next year. Happy New Year's Day too, and let's go forward with Honor.

06 Nov 2013 12:19 PM
trackjack

Will:  Right on!

06 Nov 2013 12:35 PM
Mike Relva

Playfriskyforme

Don't know of any horses that are tomato cans,can't say the same for some individuals.

06 Nov 2013 1:20 PM
Jean in Chicago

O.K.  Americans love celebrities, but make the horses the stars.  More coverage of other races throughout the season would at least make some names familiar to people.

 Nobody expects a Zenyatta or Secretariat to show up often (remember when he was the cover photo for Time and Newsweek?), but there are stories on all these horses and the people that spend their lives getting them this far.

 And show me all the pretty horses,  maybe footage of the big wins that got these horses this far.  I don't want to watch talking heads, although I certainly don't mind someone knowledgeable explaining why a poor finish in one race might have happened.  But spare me from the attractive idiot asking if they can pat the nice horsey standing in the back of his stall with his ears pinned back.

06 Nov 2013 2:53 PM
GJU

Ditto Will's remarks about Gary Stevens. I have been a fan of Gary's since he came out to So. Cal. in 1984 and hit the big time. When Gary returned to racing in January of this year, it was an exciting day for this fan. He finished third on Jebrica but he gave you a run for your money. Best day of the meet for me. Who would've known 10 months into this "combeback", he would have added how many Graded Stakes wins, a Triple Crown race and the two biggest Breeders' Cup races of that weekend? It's more than this fan could have ever expected and I'm glad I'm along for the ride. It is pretty remarkable what he's done to get back on horses and show that he's a competitor at the highest level. Continued luck and success to Gary. Keep it going! That's my kind of excitement.

06 Nov 2013 3:52 PM
lunar spook

MIKE RELVA- "TOMATO CAN" IS AN OLD TERM USED IN BOXING USED TO DESCRIBE SOMEONE THROWN IN THE RING TO GET THIER BUTT KICKED , KINDA FUNNY HOW EVERY TIME GAME ON DUDE FACES ANY COMPETITION HE GETS HIS KICKED AS WELL , WISE DAN IS THE SAME WAY , HIS CONNECTIONS HAVE BEEN RUNNING SCARED FOR HIS WHOLE OVER RATED CAREER , SHAME HES GONNA GET HORSE OF THE YEAR CUZ HE SURE DONT DESERVE IT !!!

06 Nov 2013 4:11 PM
Back Home in LA

I fell in love with Mucho Macho Man when I first saw him at Fairgrounds, winning the Risen Star and then placing 3rd in the LA Derby. He is such a big beautiful bay, and he runs with such heart. Kathy Ritvo's  story is a miracle, one of great courage, of great faith and of love, it defines what a heart is.  Gary Stevens comeback is his own miracle, one that took great determination, courage and commitment and heart. For Mucho Macho Man to come so close to winning the Classic last year, to be able to come back this year and win it with such heart and determination, what a story, what a moment in time for us all to savor together. Anyone who knew their stories had to be in tears by the end of the coverage and for those who missed it, how sad. To take these stories of man and horse and weave them together into words that have the power to transcend the reader into their world, now that is a gift, one that only a man of great heart himself can give to us. Thank you Steve for your great heart and for the wonderful stories. And may God bless Kathy and Gary and Mucho Macho Man and all connected, congrats to all.

06 Nov 2013 4:38 PM
Johnny

Even though I believe Will Take Charge was the better horse, Stevens won the race on giving MMM the better ride.

WTC was 7 wide coming for home..

Congrats to MMM and his connections..

I hit the tri so it was all good to me..

As far as NBC coverage I am on TVG until post time watch the race then go back to TVG..

Tom Hammond could be a cover girl for maybelline with all the makeup he wears..

Thanks Steve for your coverage and your tip on the South American horse in the sprint all the best..

06 Nov 2013 5:37 PM
Steve Haskin

Back Home in LA, that was beautiful. I'm touched by your words. Thank you very much.

06 Nov 2013 5:47 PM
Mister Frisky

@Mike Relva,I find it hard to believe you weren't familiar with the term tomato can.How about punching bag,punk,or someone ready to have their manhood taken from them without putting up a fight.@lunar spook good looking out.P.S.I like your handle I knew the trainer for Lunar Spook, good horse.

06 Nov 2013 7:22 PM
MsEllie

Thank you, Steve, for this wonderfully moving recap of the MMM journey...like so many, I have loved "Moochie" since the Risen Star...hysterical would not begin to describe me as the race finished...thanks for the great summary of this special journey between MMM and al his people...I cannot think of a group of connections who are more deserving...

06 Nov 2013 7:30 PM
DawnStorm

@ MZ: was your mayor set up the way Mayor for Life Marion Barry was back in '90? ;)

06 Nov 2013 7:39 PM
JayJay

mz (and for other folks who can't get the coverage) : How about using facetime (iphone or ipad) or skype for android phones.  Just find someone who's willing to facetime or skype with ya everytime the race is run, you get to watch the race live and hear the roar of the crowd at the track.

As good as it was for the owners and trainers, we should not forget the other heroes.  The handlers, they are the ones that actually spend time with the horses, day in and day out.  They are the ones closest to the horses, the ones that feeds them, walks them, puts them to bed and greets them in the morning.  I say "Salud!" to them...

06 Nov 2013 8:23 PM
Abby

A fantastic story,told so very well.Much o thanks to Steve Haskin for another great job. This one is close to home and Kathy,her family,MMM and his owners and Gary Stevens all deserve this amazing dream come true!I hope this story can be shared with a wider audience as NBC definately didn't seize the opportunity to put any great racing stories on air...Maybe Time, People..Steve? Anyway mucho kudos to all of you!

06 Nov 2013 11:24 PM
Mike Relva

Playfriskyforme

Guess I'm not as bright as you. lol

Lunar Spook

If you don't think Wise Dan is a great horse you're fooling yourself,not anyone else. As for Horse Of The Year,he deserves it. This is why I've missed little by not posting for several months.

07 Nov 2013 1:44 AM
lunar spook

PLAY FRISKY FOR ME - THANKS FOR THE COMMENT , LUNAR SPOOK IS ONE OF MY FAV HORSE NAMES ALONG WITH , ICHOBOD CRANE , GIANTS CAUSWAY , DEMONS BEGONE , BATES MOTEL & CRIMINAL TYPE AND YES GAME ON DUDE IS BASICALLY OVER RATED AND RAN AGAINST "TOMATO CANS" LOL !!!

07 Nov 2013 8:04 AM
Steve Haskin

I don't know if you can say this about any other horse, but MMM ran in all three Triple Crown races and still had not turned 3.

07 Nov 2013 10:20 AM
Linda in Texas

Steve, exactly on your comment as to MMM's age in the Triple Crown races.

He had not fully matured in body, mind and spirit yet. When you go back and look at him then, one realizes he was still growing inside and out.

Patience paid off for all and he grew into himself. That is what i admired the most. And for all of the connections and Mucho Macho Man to come back and win the big race in Santa Anita culminates into a word that does not even come close to saying what i feel about the entire story. Inspirational is all i can come up with. Hard to hide tears of joy as you strain to see through them. To me Mucho Macho Man is my horse of the year. And Kathy is my trainer of the decade. My husband had a heart transplant so i can personally i.d. with the resolve Kathy has and the tribulations all went through.

Congratulations again to everyone who made it happen.

And thanks Steve. Again.

Linda

07 Nov 2013 11:19 AM
Stellar Jayne

Dr. Druinkinbum - Your idea for a movie about Kathy, Gary and MMM outlined above is spot on.  Let us hope some hot screen writer has interest in racing, reads this column Steve wrote and uses your insightful exposition to approach Spielberg, Lucas or Disney to finance it.  It would be a marvelous film.

07 Nov 2013 12:17 PM
Alex'sBigFan

NBC, I would assume, is trying to appeal to mainstream America on many levels.  Yes, we the core fan base in horseracing, would prefer to just see the horses, re-iterate their accomplishments during the year that brought them to the BC races with footage of those races, and some stories on the connections.  We don't need the so called "fluff."  The "fluff" however, acts as a lure to reel in the casual or not so casual fan.  It's way too much for the casual fan to digest in one day.  Why can't NBC have shows on all week preceding the BC just as TVG has "The Works" and show the contenders in their workouts prior to the BC races and video of what they have done to qualify them to run in the BC races?  Every year we rehash the same lack of marketing the sport and lack of adequate tv coverage of the events.  There is a huge gap or void, or lack of continuity, between the Travers and the BC races as far as tv coverage goes that needs to be filled.  NBC has much work to do to fine tune their BC coverage and promote the real stars, the horses.

07 Nov 2013 7:39 PM
JayJay

Found this on youtube, in reference to Karen In Indiana's post.  Steve beside Kathy and Gary talking about the "1/8th pole".  

Check out 8:04 and 9:43 of the video...

www.youtube.com/watch

07 Nov 2013 11:03 PM
TerriZ

Thanks for writing such a wonderful article about one of my favorite horses. I've been a fan of Mucho ever since he ran in the Triple Crown races as a big, gangly, immature 2 1/2 year old baby.

One of the gate keepers at the Calder and Gulfstream thought he was one of the most talented horses in the class of 2011. He said that when he matures, he's going to be something else.

Thanks to the patience and perseverance by his team, owner, trainer, and racing manager, he's now the winner of the Classic.

This is what racing should be about. How fantastic would it be for racing if we could follow horses until the age of 5-7 years of age? It would really help develop a fan base.

Since Mucho loves the Tapeta, it looks like he's going to going to Dubai to race next year.

Kudos to MMM, his team, owners, trainer and jockey.  

08 Nov 2013 1:38 AM
Pedigree Ann

Just to explain more about Tom Hammond's background in the sport -

Hammond grew up in Lexington (Lafayette HS, my daughter's school) has a B.S. in animal science from UK specializing in equine genetics; his grandfather was a formerly a dean of the UK College of Agriculture.

Back when I first came to Lexington, KY, in 1975, Tom Hammond was the lead sportscaster on a local NBC station. He hosted the nightly replays from Keeneland, while a dark-haired Mike Battaglia created racecalls for the no-PA-system track. Hammond also was the pedigree reader at all the Keeneland sales, up on the stand with the auctioneer.

When video became a readily available, Hammond started a company to prepare promotional videos for the Kee July Yearling Sales. Hammond Communications is still a major producer of promotional video materials about farms, stallions, yearlings, etc.

Tom Hammond has been far more intimately involved in the Thoroughbred industry than most of us throughout his entire adult life.

P.S. I have met Tom only once, at my son's piano recital - his daughter had the same teacher. I was too shy to confess my own feelings about the TB industry and only spoke about whether I had started my son too late on piano.

08 Nov 2013 10:54 AM
SCATDADDY59CAE

I BEEN LOVIN MMM ,SINCE HE ,BEAT ME IN THE RISEN STAR AT THE F.G. ,HE DIDN'T PAY WHAT WILD AGAIN PAY IN 84 , BUT I LOVE THIS GAME, IT NOT ABOUT THE $20. 6-10 EXA, THE 6,10,5 TRI.  THIS STORY NEEDS TO BE IN A BOOK STEVE, YOU OUTDID YOURSELF THIS TIME ,AND THEN YOU SAY WHAT I'M THINKIN, BACK HOME IN LA COMMENT ,TOUCH ME BIG TIME.

08 Nov 2013 11:33 AM
Will

All that Pedigree Ann related about Tom Hammond's training, background, and qualifications to do on air race coverage for NBC was readily available in a quick internet search for those who hastily wanted to dismiss him as incompetent and abuse him with ill-deserved insults.  He's been NBC host of its Breeders Cup coverage since its inception in 1984 and has done their Kentucky Derby coverage since 2001. If NBC wants to trivialize their coverage of these events with their focuses on extraneous celebrity, fashion, food, and entertainment nonsense that makes one want to switch to TVG and HRTV until they get through these interludes in their coverage, take it to the bank that this nausea did not come from Tom Hammond's suggestion and input as to how the coverage is handled.

08 Nov 2013 1:56 PM
rachel fan

What a thrilling day of racing it was at Santa Anita, and the Classic was the best of all. Mucho Macho Man was my favorite and my hero. His win said so much about what greathearted individuals and animals can do when given a second chance to live out their life's passions. MMM, Kathy Ritvo and Gary Stevens all have such passion, extraordinary courage and strength of will. May they continue to inspire us all. Thanks for another beautifully written and touching article!  

09 Nov 2013 12:23 AM
El Kabong

Steve, Outstanding as usual and like Gary I was looking at that 1/8 pole too. That is so cool that he gave you the credit for that, but that is Gary, a real straight shooter like yourself.

We are lucky to have Tom Hammond covering this sport. No one is as dedicated on the NBC staff like Tom is, but I have to confess, Neumeier and Brothers are the smartest of them all now that Charlsie is gone.

09 Nov 2013 10:16 AM
Steve Haskin

As you may have deduced by now, this recap was special to me, considering all the wonderful stories behind it, so to all who shared their comments and for all the kind words, I thank you.

09 Nov 2013 10:41 AM

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