The lives of horses, like humans, can easily be dictated by the paths chosen for them. It is called destiny or fate, and who knows how history might be changed had certain events not taken place.
We’re all aware of the fairy tale path that has led Mucho Macho Man to fame and fortune, from his own story to the stories of Kathy Ritvo, Gary Stevens, and Finn Green.
But if not for nine words uttered by Dean Reeves on a hot July afternoon in 2010, who knows where the Mucho Macho Man story would have been played out and with whom.
On Saturday, Mucho Macho Man will be the overwhelming favorite in the Sunshine Millions Classic, a race that has provided the highest of highs and the lowest of lows for the son of Macho Uno.
When he approaches the gate, he might want to lean over and say hi to Gourmet Dinner and thank him for all the accolades that have recently been bestowed upon him, as well as the all the awards and all the riches he has accumulated over the past three years.
You see, it appeared as if Gourmet Dinner was destined to wind up in the hands of Dean and Patti Reeves, who were looking for a horse to buy in Florida. They were touted on a son of Trippi named Gourmet Dinner, who had recently won his career debut by a length at odds of 9-1 and looked to have a bright future.
The horse finishing second after battling on the lead all the way through torrid fractions was named Mucho Macho Man, a giant of a horse and extremely late foal who was only in this race because he had been scratched from a race the week before after he got nicked up when the horse in the stall next to him flipped in the gate.
Dean Reeves appeared all set to buy Gourmet Dinner, that is until he watched the race and uttered those nine fateful words: “Call me crazy, but I like the second horse.” So profound would those words become, the Reeves recently named a horse Call Me Crazy.
So, Reeves contacted Mucho Macho Man’s trainer Bill White and owner Dream Team One Racing Stable, and shortly after, a deal was made for majority interest in the horse (they would eventually buy out Dream Team), who they turned over to trainer Tim Ritvo, and we all know what happened after that.
Said Mucho Macho Man’s breeder Carole Rio, “Had he started that first time, I think he would have won and the Reeves’ never would have seen him in the maiden race with Gourmet Dinner (only a week later). It was in the cards for the Reeves to own him and Kathy Ritvo to train him. I think it all worked out best for this horse. I feel the horse really connected to Kathy. There was a reason why they scratched him from that first start. It’s just amazing to me the way it wound up. He’s just meant to be where he is.”
At first, Reeves’ decision didn’t look all that smart. While Mucho Macho Man was finishing third in a maiden race at odds of 9-5, Gourmet Dinner was winning the first two legs of the Florida Stallion Series – the Dr. Fager and the Affirmed – before finishing second in the rich In Reality Division. He followed that up with an impressive victory in the $1 million Delta Jackpot. So through Nov. 20, Mucho Macho Man had accumulated earnings of $70,643, while Gourmet Dinner, the horse the Reeves’ could have had and intended to buy, had amassed earnings of $809,660.
By February, Gourmet Dinner’s earnings had climbed to over $989,000 with a fourth in the CashCall Futurity, a third in the Holy Bull Stakes, and a second in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. In the Holy Bull, he again finished ahead of Mucho Macho Man, who was fourth.
But that is where the fortunes of both horses changed. Gourmet Dinner suffered an injury and was laid up for an entire year, while Mucho Macho Man began his climb to stardom with a victory in the Risen Star Stakes and thirds in the Louisiana Derby and Kentucky Derby.
When Gourmet Dinner returned, he was never the same horse, and although he ran well in an occasional stakes, he could manage only two victories in his next 19 starts.
With a victory and three thirds in his last four starts, here he is again, almost three years later, facing Mucho Macho Man. But this time it is David facing Goliath, and it would take an upset of that magnitude to knock off the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and finalist for Horse of the Year and Champion Older Male.
Was it fate that guided both horses to this place and time? Was it fate that shined brightly on one horse and cast a shadow on the career of the other? Would the story of Mucho Macho Man taken the same kind of path had the Reeves purchased Gourmet Dinner, leaving Mucho Macho Man to go through life without Kathy Ritvo, perhaps remaining with Bill White at Calder his entire career?
When you watch the two horses walk into that gate on Saturday, just think of their respective journeys that brought them here, and then say you don’t believe in fate. Who knows, maybe after all these years, Mucho Macho Man will allow his old friend, to whom he owes so much, one final moment of glory.