The Florida-bred millionaire arrived at Santa Anita on Wednesday and visited the track for the first time Thursday morning
ARCADIA, CALIF. - Florida-bred Mucho Macho Man didn’t take long to settle into his new digs in barn 66 at Santa Anita Park after arriving Wednesday afternoon on a Tex Sutton charter from Newburgh, N.Y. He is set to start in Saturday’s $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).
Owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Mucho Macho Man visited the track for the first time on Thursday for trainer Kathy Ritvo. He galloped an easy 1 ¼ miles and stood in the gate.
“We just wanted him to get a feel for the track,” said Ritvo. “He went nice and easy. He shipped in great, didn’t turn a hair. He’s always traveled very well. He is nice relaxed today and he slept well last night.”
Cooling out back at the barn following his Thursday exercise, Mucho Macho Man was greeted by two trams full of curious racing fans. The numerous clicking shutters failed to faze the lanky Sunshine State product, who actually seemed to relish the attention.
“He was enjoying all the people,” Ritvo said with a smile. “He’s a nosey one. He loves the attention and he’s great when he’s outside.”
Mucho Macho Man was originally slated to Fly from New York on Tuesday, but Hurricane Sandy forced a postponement to Wednesday.
“We missed a day of training, which is probably not great, but he’s doing so good, I think we’ll be OK,” said Ritvo.
Mucho Macho Man, bred by John and Carole Rio, certainly has a presence. Ritvo said she believes the son of former Florida sire Macho Uno is taller than 17 hands.
“We’ve never measured or weighed him,” she said. “He has big bones and big feet, but he’s very well balanced. I told the gate crew to be prepared because, ‘the small horse is coming your way.’ They got a kick out of that.”
While Mucho Macho Man will be making his first start at Santa Anita, the accomplished earner of more than $1.4 million has taken his connections on quite a ride.
“Just to be in this position here at a fantastic venue like Santa Anita is tremendously exciting for us,’” said Dean Reeves, who owns the horse with wife, Patti. “I don’t know if there are words that encompass the enormity of it all. I just can’t believe how many fans he has and how much he means to so many people.”
Patti thinks she knows why. “People identify with him and his story,” she said. “He was an underdog from the beginning. This is all very emotional for us.”
Before shipping to Santa Anita, Mucho Macho Man recorded his final serious drill for the Classic, working four furlongs at Belmont Park in :48 1/5, galloping out five furlongs in 1:01 and change, according to Ritvo.
“He went by himself so he wouldn’t do too much,” she said. “He came back from the work bouncing. He’s fit and ready. So far, everything has gone great with him.”
Mucho Macho Man began his season with consecutive victories under Ramon Dominguez at Gulfstream Park. In January, he captured the Sunshine Millions Classic in near wire to wire fashion, turning back fellow Florida-bred Ron the Greek and returned in March to annex the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) over Sunshine State products Tackleberry and Jackson Bend. He finished third to Successful Dan and Fort Larned in the Alysheba Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs in May and before being introduced to new rider Mike Smith in the Suburban Handicap (G2) in July at Belmont Park.
In the first start with Smith as his pilot, Mucho Macho Man promptly delivered on the pairing. In a game effort, the 4-year-old colt defeated Humn Book by 2 ½ lengths and recorded his highest career Beyer Speed Figure of 108. He turned in another gutsy performance in his next start, finishing second by heart-breaking neck to To Honor and Serve in the prestigious Woodward Stakes (G1) at Saratoga. He has not started since that outing as Ritvo has targeted the Breeders’ Cup Classic for her charge all season.
All told, Mucho Macho Man has won six of 17 starts heading into the Classic, and placed in eight others. He is three for five in 2012.
“He’s an unbelievable horse to be around,” Ritvo said. “He definitely has a special personality. He’s a professional and a pleasure to be around. It’s been an amazing journey and he brought us to where we are today.”
Photo by Courtney Stafford