Mucho Macho Man at Saratoga Race Course, Aug. 12, 2012 (C. Novak)
TAKE Mucho Macho Man, posing in the shadows of a tree-lined path at Saratoga Race Course, out of this decade and roll him back to the past.
The lanky bay brings to mind racing's glory days; runners like Late Bloomer, Bowl Game, Stage Door Johnny, and Key to the Mint. That will to win, that kind of ability, is fostered by old-school philosophy.
Never rush a horse.
Let him lead you to where he wants to go.
Pay attention to the athlete, don't just conform him to your plans.
Winner of four of his five starts for Reeves Thoroughbred Racing in recent times, Mucho Macho Man is finding his best stride this year. He's a lean, mean racing machine who fired on all cylinders when drawing off to a 2 1/2-length coup in the July 7 Suburban Handicap (gr. II) under a hand ride at Belmont Park last time out. It was a powerful win that both impressed Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith (his first time aboard, cruising like a Ferrari) and stamped the colt as a serious handicap contender.
Mucho Macho Man cruises in the Suburban Handicap (Coglianese Photo)
Trainer Kathy Ritvo, a heart transplant recipient whose touching story captivated racing fans when "Macho" was racing toward a third-place finish in last year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), will saddle her big runner to a start in the Sept. 1 Woodward Stakes (gr. I) as the 5-2 morning line favorite. (Click here to read Pat Forde's May 2011 ESPN profile of the pint-sized dynamo and her leggy charge).
Once a gangly youngster who required time to grow into his inherent talent, the 4-year-old son of Macho Uno seems to have done just that—all 17.2 hands of him. He's also quite the fan favorite, with more than 5,200 followers on his Facebook page.
Back in February of 2011, Mucho Macho Man galloped his way onto the Triple Crown scene almost unwittingly, winning Fair Grounds' Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) as an actual 2-year-old though technically classified 3 by Jockey Club standards. A June 15 foal, he completed that Derby trifecta off a third-place finish in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), but turned in two less-satisfying efforts—sixth in the Preakness (gr. I) and seventh in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
"Macho's" first Blood-Horse cover (Lou Hodges, Jr.)
When the pressure of the Triple Crown trail was over, Ritvo was able to step back and allow her runner to come into his own.
"He's developed naturally this year and we've paid attention to his development," said Finn Green, racing manager for Dean and Patti Reeves. "I was really glad after the Triple Crown that we were able to give him time."
Following a post-Belmont rest, the big horse won a mile allowance in November at Aqueduct by 5 3/4 lengths, doubled back to take the Florida Sunshine Millions Classic Stakes over Ron The Greek and Turbo Compressor at the start of the year, and rolled to two-length victory in the March 10 Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II). His only loss came to Successful Dan and Fort Larned in the May 4 Alysheba Stakes (gr. III).
Mucho Macho Man wins the FL Sunshine Millions Classic (Coglianse Photo)
"He'd probably do twelves all day long," said Green. "He's very easy on himself; he has a good mind, a great stride, and great aerobics. It's a combination of attributes that ends up being the individual attribute."
Other Woodward contenders include 2011 Travers (gr. I) winner Stay Thirsty and Cigar Mile (gr. I) winner To Honor and Serve. For a full preview, click here.
" He deserves to be racing with those runners; he's the real deal," Green remarked. "A horse like this makes everybody look good."
Old-fashioned Mucho Macho Man
Watch Mucho Macho Man win the 2012 Suburban Handicap: