's Ultimate Case for Mucho Macho Man & Lea

Pace handicapping is actually a two-step process. The question is not "How fast will they go," but (in the case of front runners), "How fast can this horse go and still win?"

"A lot of pace in the race" doesn't set the race up for a closer if three front runners are gassed after a :22 first quarter and :45 half but a fourth horse is able to run those fractions and still come home in :24 for 1:09 for six furlongs. A closer five lengths off that pace would have to come home in :23 for a chance, and that's no easy task.

As countless handicapping books have told me (and by countless, I mean I'm too lazy to count them, not that it's an infinite number, but it's a lot trust me), the idea that most closers (on dirt) run faster late than early is an illusion. I won't say most horses do their "best" running early, but it's certainly the fastest part of the race more often than not, which is why so-called speed biases have more to do with the animals contesting the race than the surface itself, but I digress because that's off the topic of Mucho Macho Man and Lea winning the Woodward and Forego Stakes (links to FREE Ultimate Past Performances), respectively, on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course--the summer place to be celebrating 150 years of aristocratic merriment in the foothill of the Adirondack Mountains (for past performances for all of Saturday's races at Saratoga [plus access to analysis products] visit the Special Reports page).

Admittedly, Mucho Macho Man is a bit of a price play, as I don't see him as the most likely winner of the race, but I do see him as likely a winner of the other obvious horses (in alphabetical order) Flat Out, Paynter, and Successful Dan (Alpha & Ron The Greek can beat me). So if your fair odds on Flat Out, Paynter, and Successful Dan are 3-to-1 then Mucho Macho Man figures nicely at 4-to-1 (that leaves a 19-to-1 chance that either of "can beat me" horses actually beat me).

So what does Mucho Macho Man have to do to win? Well, he's done it six times in his career, and every time he's been either on the lead or in second place after the first quarter mile. Put another way, he's winless in nine starts when not first or second after a quarter mile and 6-for-15 when in that position.
Can he be there on Saturday in the Woodward? The pace figures easily say yes. With Fort Larned out, Paynter and Mucho Macho Man are tied for the best early pace last race figure. Early pace measures from the start to the first call, and it's several points back to Flat Out and the rest.

Like most high-class animals racing in quality races, Mucho Macho Man goes faster for the first six furlongs than he does for the first half mile. His E2 pace rating (start to second call) was 109 last time, but that's not even close to what he's capable of. When he won the Suburban last year he popped a 100 through half a mile and then a 117 through six furlongs and kept on going.

I'm betting on the come here, because there is no guarantee he'll keep on going this time, but I do think there's a better than 20% chance that he does, and that makes him a good play.

Take a look at the race summary below and check out how Mucho Macho Man stacks up against the rest in average and best pace. Is he a standout? No, but considering the prices I think he's the obvious bet.

The Forego is a different situation, as I'm playing against the speed in this race, but I don't think Lea is as much of a stretch as everyone else.

Lea was everyone's sexy pick to upset Horse of the Year Wise Dan in both the Firecracker and Fourstardave Handicaps. He was 9-to-2 in both attempts and never really threatened the dual champion with a now-eight-race winning streak. He'll be at least double (and more likely triple) that price in the Forego with a lot of positive angles in play, including going turf to dirt on the cut back.

It's also worth noting that his best race came in a one-turn dirt affair. Granted, that was off the turf on a sloppy track, but there is no reason to think that Lea can't fulfill his promise with a Grade 1 win here.

WAGERING STRATEGY: I'll play Lea across the board. There's no reason to get cute in exotics when he'll be a square price and you'll get paid just for hitting the board. As for the Woodward, Mucho Macho Man is a win-place candidate.

As for multiple-race wagers, there's an all-graded-stakes Pick 3 that begins with the Bernard Baruch, and Silver Max is a single for me in there and a win bet at odds of 8-to-5 or better (I'll single him down to even money). I'll play him with ALL in the Forego and the aforementioned quartet in the Woodward for $32. I'll also give myself a chance to really by right by playing Silver Max-Lea and Lea-Mucho Macho Man doubles.

Good luck!

Ed DeRosa is director of marketing for Follow him on Twitter, and contributes to the blog.


Leave a Comment:

Mary Zinke

Not a bad idea to bet Lea across, Ed.  I have him in fourth behind the chalky Mc Chalkingtons split by J.B. So in the Forego, 1a,3,1,5. But it's about unlocking ones that pay something, so along with your interesting Lea pick, and I have to figure Al Stall hasn't gone nuts, plus it might rain just enough to help out the situation, I also like Goldigger's Boy as a long shot.

30 Aug 2013 5:28 PM
Plod Boy Phil

This dueling Blog thing on Unlocking Winners is a goof.  It makes having a cohesive weekend discussion so easy for us all.

Way to think it through BH.

30 Aug 2013 6:00 PM
Mary Zinke

I'm okay with a little rain this time. Woodward: Flat Out, Successful Dan, Ron The Greek, Alpha.

30 Aug 2013 6:52 PM
Plod Boy Phil

I'm a bit distraught over the breakdown of Saginaw in today's 3rd at Saratoga.

Where were they going off the huge race last out ?

30 Aug 2013 7:19 PM
Mary Zinke

Very sad ending for Saginaw, Phil.  I always hope that these local heroes, as I call them, can go on to a well-earned retirement.

30 Aug 2013 8:30 PM

PBP: Good point about the "dueling blogs," as it's one I've thought of as well. I think down the road we'll probably land on different races week to week (and even this week only the Woodward overlapped), but the last two weeks have had "obvious" races to discuss.

I'm up for suggestions, though... claiming race on Tuesday at Fairmount? I'm game!

30 Aug 2013 9:36 PM

Mucho Macho Man was fully extended in both the 2012 Woodward and Breeder Cup Classic. He has not been the same horse since. He was exposed to the speed high octane Cross Traffic in the Whitney and will be in quick retreat in the Woodward.

30 Aug 2013 11:19 PM
Monarchos Matt

Plod Boy Phil,

Couldn't have said it better myself, on both counts... what is going on with these random blogs? Good to see you and the other frequent posters, at least.

I am also crushed over Saginaw as I head to bed, that was a beautiful horse we lost today.


With due respect, you are wrong on both MMM and Alpha. MMM is the same horse, and probably better, and will prove it tomorrow coming upon an ideal pace setup 3rd off the layoff. Alpha, who I was also a fan of during his Triple Crown campaign (my #2 choice in that Derby, in fact), is simply a cut below.

Of course, the coldfacts will play themselves out tomorrow afternoon. Cheers and good luck.

31 Aug 2013 2:21 AM

Mucho Macho Man was fully extended in both the 2012 Woodward and Breeder Cup Classic. He has not been the same horse since. He was exposed to the speed high octane Cross Traffic in the Whitney and will be in quick retreat in the Woodward.

31 Aug 2013 6:19 AM

Playing a cheap PIck 4 at Del Mar.  

Race 8) 6,7,10,11,12/3/2/3,4

Stinks that rain is likely for the last days at Saratoga.  Really enjoy those turf races and made quite a bit (for me) there this season.  

31 Aug 2013 9:07 AM
Plod Boy Phil

FA - was not implying your tab of 'MW' came from something you read or heard.

31 Aug 2013 11:29 AM

It sounds as though Mucho Macho Man will scratch from the Woodward if the track isn't fast . . . I'll be keeping an eye on the weather!

31 Aug 2013 12:06 PM
Linda in Texas

Plod Boy Phil - wondered the same thing myself. He was a fan favorite including me. Several breakdowns at this meet. 2 just last week end in the same race. Sarava's Dancer who was in the lead and Kris Royal after her. Just never will handle the sad ends for them. Never. Perfectly fine one minute, bad step the next and gone.

Hope everyone comes home safely today. All of them. Not just the more famous ones.

31 Aug 2013 12:38 PM
Linda in Texas

Plod Boy Phil - wondered the same thing myself. He was a fan favorite including me. Several breakdowns at this meet. 2 just last week end in the same race. Sarava's Dancer who was in the lead and Kris Royal after her. Just never will handle the sad ends for them. Never. Perfectly fine one minute, bad step the next and gone.

Hope everyone comes home safely today. All of them. Not just the more famous ones.

31 Aug 2013 12:38 PM
Plod Boy Phil


What made last week's event even more unusual is that was a turf race no less.  

31 Aug 2013 12:44 PM
Linda in Texas

Exactly re: turf - now watching Saratoga pre race 1 and the track is very sloppy, rain just quit. Now what does that portend for Paynter, etc.

Lots of scratches for Race 1 and 2.

31 Aug 2013 1:00 PM
Linda in Texas

Plod Boy Phil - after Race 9 at Saratoga last Saturday - i looked up when Sarava's Dancer last worked out. She did on 7/8 and 7/15 on TURF, then on DIRT 7/22, 8/8 and 8/17 and raced on TURF 8/25/13 and snapped a foreleg. She was a beautiful mare. She last raced in a claiming on 7/27/13 (surface??) at Saratoga, before her fatal race last Saturday.

And Kris Royal trained on DIRT at Saratoga on 7/20 and 8/13 then raced on TURF 8/25/2013 and broke down right after Sarava's Dancer.


31 Aug 2013 1:19 PM
Plod Boy Phil

Saratoga R12

3 Island Sunset enters off an upgraded win last out.  I've seen enough with this profile repeat next out in the slop to have more than a passing interest.

31 Aug 2013 3:30 PM
Plod Boy Phil

of course,  that's #13 Island Sunset

31 Aug 2013 4:23 PM
Plod Boy Phil

Congrats Alpha backers.

31 Aug 2013 5:54 PM
Mary Zinke

Way to go Alpha.  Was hoping Flat Out would add another grade 1 win before his three-peat try, but I'm happy for Alpha and connections.  

31 Aug 2013 6:03 PM
Monarchos Matt


Hope you stuck to your guns with Alpha. I would have demanded better than 5-1 but in a field that short you had a pretty great angle there. Congrats.

31 Aug 2013 6:52 PM
Rusty Weisner


Well done.  I put Alpha on my tickets (with Successful Dan & Flat Out) at the last minute after MMM scratched:  he looked to try to pull the same thing he did in last year's Jim Dandy.

You helped give me a chance to make a lot of money, but I didn't have the prior leg (took 1,3,4 after toying with taking all but the 2 & the 8).  So how much money?  I played rolling P3s races 5 thru 12 for a total of $75, singling Tenango and Silver Max and getting my horses in all the legs but R10 and R9.  The P3 tickets for R7-9 wsa $200-1, R8-10 $320-1, R9-11...$827-1.  It just goes to show you that a single and an ALL will go a long way -- Today was chintzy betting so I'm not going to regret not throwing a hail mary and getting lucky on that race, but it does confirm me in my intent to throw money at the wall on BC rolling P3's.

And hey, I did net $20 today!

31 Aug 2013 7:53 PM
Plod Boy Phil

There are a couple of significant similarities in Del Mar Debutante winner She's a Tiger and Brazen Persuasion today in the Spinaway.

- each enter(ed) their respective races with 'vs Zip Wins' in an Extreme Race for Closers on their resumes.

- each was given a bold upgrade

- each has stake experience in inexperienced fields

The biggest difference is the draw,  as She's a Tiger enjoyed the comforts of being the fastest and outside,  while BP must negotiate the rail going 7f.  Her superior quickness will make the task much easier.

01 Sep 2013 9:58 AM

The last time a mare from a nondescript son of Seattle Slew produce a quality horse that horse went on to win the Kentucky Derby. The horse was Funny Cide. Belle’s Good Cide the dam of Funny Cide was sires by Slewacide a son of TC winner Seattle Slew who made only one start and earned $2,160. He must have gotten injured as he was produced from a Buckpasser mare. He was certainly bred for marathons.

Another promising horse has emerged from a mare sired by one of Slew’s relatively unknown sons. The horse is the Darley bred Dancing House. She was sired by Tapit and out of millionaire and G1 winner Tout Charmant who was sired by Slewvescent. This son of Seattle Slew made 7 starts and earned $15,600.  

This filly won on debut after experiencing problems while leaving the gates and traffic problems on the back stretch. She appears very small but displayed a very big heart in repelling the challenge of runner up Quilt in the stretch.  

She enters the G1 Spinaway off the above mentioned MSW victory and faces a big challenge. However, she has many positives to win the race.

Her sire Tapit is an excellent sire of fillies. Joyful Victory, Stardom Bound, Careless Jewel, Tapitsfly, Zazu and Laragh are few of Tapit’s top female runners.

Although she won at 6F she is a router and longer is better. The 7F of the Spinaway will be ideal.

She hails from stable that is on fire.

There are some brilliant fillies in the Spinaway and the pace will be honest. I expect Dancing House

to be doing her best running late.

I think she can get there despite her inexperience.

01 Sep 2013 11:31 AM
Rusty Weisner

Monarchos Matt,

Alpha paid $17.40.

I have to eat my words about MMM and sloppy tracks.  I also have to find a better weather report -- I had no idea there had been downpours until I checked in around the 3rd race.

01 Sep 2013 11:36 AM
Rusty Weisner

Monarchos Matt,

Ended up taking Jackson Bend (along with Sage Valley) on the hopes the conditions might encourage him to run back to prior form.  Another in a 3-weekend series of second place finishes and near misses.

01 Sep 2013 11:44 AM
Plod Boy Phil

Dancing House enjoyed the wide trip on a severely Closer Biased main track.  Slow and 'aided' not an ideal profile for a forward move in first try with winners.

01 Sep 2013 12:00 PM

I'm not buying into the cheating theory on Alpha, saw the video and dont think it shows much of anything.  

However, I did want to ask other's opinion on the 95 Derby and Thunder Gulch.  Looks pretty obvious Stevens hands Pat Day something in the gallop out.  This may be old news to everyone else but I just saw the video for the first time last night.  Is "buzzer" cheating common?  

01 Sep 2013 12:04 PM
Pedigree Ann

Well, back from Vilnius and Warsaw - my husband does go some unusual places for his work. Thirty-two- hour days from crossing 6 time zones going westward leave me woozy. Stayed not far from the track in Warsaw, but they were running Arabs not TBs last week.

I see that it rained a lot at Saratoga and that Alpha took them wire-to-wire in the pseudo-Woodward. Lesser horse wins on the front end on a sloppy track. <Yawn.> Not like we haven't seen that before. Guess it was a bridge too far for Paynter at this stage of his comeback. Hope it doesn't set him back - BC this season may an unrealistic goal.

01 Sep 2013 5:27 PM
Monarchos Matt


It was an odd, speed favoring day that I was happy to sit out for the most part. The Za Approval and MMM scratches ruined any desire I had to play a Pick 3, and as far as the Forego is concerned, I congratulate anyone who thought that Strapping Groom had any chance whatsoever to wire that field. The only bet I ended up making all day was on Sage Valley to win, had Jackson Bend been closer to his ML i might have bet him instead, but glad to see him at least run the race I thought he was sitting on, even if he came just short.

As far as eating our words about the slop, it was the decision of the connections to scratch MMM, and while admittedly they know what the horse wants better than I do as far as track condition, he still didn't get a chance to prove them wrong. But, I don't blame them, that track was a mess.

In any case, the Jockey Club Gold Cup should be a good one...

01 Sep 2013 10:58 PM

"Lesser horse wins on the front end on a sloppy track"

In fairness to Alpha he might not be a household name but is certainty not chopped liver.

He exited a MSW and finished second in the G1 Champagne to eventual Belmont winner Union Rags.

He was thought good enough to be entered in the Kentucky Derby and Breeders Cup Classic.

It is fair to regard him as an under achiever but unfair to regard him as lesser horse. He has won on both fast and sloppy tracks.

02 Sep 2013 1:38 AM
Pedigree Ann

Coldfacts - No matter how well, he might have been at 2, Alpha's form at 3 was not that of a top horse. He got lucky at Saratoga because none of the horses who had beaten him all spring were out of action for one reason or another. This has happened more than once before - Annihilate 'Em won the Travers in Secretariat's year, etc. His races in the Pa Derby and BC Classic were not those of a top colt.

02 Sep 2013 10:33 PM

Pedigree Ann,

Pleasr tell us, who is your pick for the top dirt horse now.

03 Sep 2013 2:06 PM

Pedigree Ann

"Alpha's form at 3 was not that of a top horse."

I do not recall referring to Alpha as a top 3YO. Below is an extract from one of my posts on the other Blog.

"Alpha has 6 victories to his credit and only two were achieved on a sloppy track. He has only contested 5 races as a 4YO. He showed enough promise as a 3YO to suggest that further improvement was possible as a 4YO."

Alpha made 9 starts  as a 3YO. Amongst his victories were the G1 Travers, G2 Jim Dandy and the G3 Withers. He also won the Gotham Stakes.

He was a NS second to Gemologist in the G1 Wood. The Wood is has long been regarded as A premier Derby Preps. Gemologist was undefeated at the time and was high on most Derby list. In fact, he left the gates a 6-1.

Alpha finished 12th in the Derby and the following horses were behind him:

Gemologist - 1st Wood Memorial

El Padrino - 1st Risen Star

Done Talking - 1st IL Derby

Take Charge Indy - 1st FL Derby

Serbercat - 3rd AK Derby

Prospective - 1st Tampa Bay Derby

Daddy Longs Legs -1st UAE Derby

For colt that was not a top 3YO he certainly defeated a lot of graded winners who were far more highly regarded.

05 Sep 2013 8:01 AM
Mary Zinke

Yes, Alpha is a good colt. Ever since he stopped spazzing out in the gate I've liked him.  He's a good colt that has had some very crappy losses, but like with Jeranimo for instance, gotta look at Alpha's ability to also run well. Don't discount the inconsistent ones as contenders, because one of my sayings, which maybe only I get, is that when they are inconsistent, they are inconsistently good, too.  

05 Sep 2013 1:40 PM

Recent Posts

More Blogs