Photo: Eclipse Spotswire
Two big names returned to the starting gate today, and when
the dust had settled, one was a triumphant victor and the other had settled for
third. The reactions could not have been more different either. While most
heralded Paynter’s return to the races as a victory in and of itself for the
simple fact that less than a year ago he was not expected to survive, many of
those same people were not willing to go so easy on Mucho Macho Man who was
also returning after an illness, albeit not one nearly as severe as Paynter’s
Mucho Macho Man began his 2013 campaign with an attempt to
repeat in the Sunshine Millions Classic, but an off track led to him being
eased by jockey Mike Smith. Trainer Kathy Ritvo decided to give him a break
following his less than stellar 2013 debut, a decision that could not come at a
better time. He was shipped to Fair Hill
for his break and there recovered from both a mild virus and a subsequent
He returned to training in early April, and by the latter
part of May, his connections and veterinarians felt that he could move forward
with his training to the point of being ready to race, according to a statement
given by Finn Green, Racing Manager for Reeves Thoroughbred Racing. The spot
chosen for Mucho Macho Man’s comeback race this year could not have been any
different than the spot chosen for his 2011 comeback, however.
The son of Macho Uno was entered in a NW3X allowance at
Aqueduct following his layoff after the rigors of his Triple Crown campaign.
That day the colt was an easy 5 ¾ length victory. The field assembled for today’s
Criminal Type Stakes could easily have made up a graded stakes field, a fact in
stark contrast to the field Mucho Macho Man faced back in 2011. With Hymn Book
and San Pablo in the field, Mucho Macho Man would have to work for a victory.
Though he had been working steadily at Fair Hill since
April, Mucho Macho Man was far from being fully cranked for today’s race. He
entered the starting gate off two straight bullet works, a 5 furlong work in
59:80 and a 4 furlong work in 48 flat. Despite the bullet status of those two
works, it should be kept in mind that they came at Fair Hill. His four previous
works were far from eye catching, which is not surprising when you consider
Kathy Ritvo’s racing stats. Under her care, horses returning from a 61-180 day
layoff have been winning at a 17% clip. Compare that to Todd Pletcher’s 24%
clip and John Parisella's 40% clip for the same stat. Though a victory today would have been nice, this was
not the ultimate goal and the multiple graded stakes winner’s connections were
pleased with their horse’s performance.
Mucho Macho Man might have run third in his race today, but
his effort was far from embarrassing. An overnight stakes victory was obviously
not the goal for the colt right now. The Criminal Type was simply a spot in
which to get the fan favorite back on his toes and into the swing of things.
Considering that he was ill twice since his last race, I would say today’s
effort was pretty darn respectable. Critics were quick to point out that he
generally runs well fresh, but running well fresh and coming back after missing
training are two different things. Don’t expect any retirement announcements
anytime soon because we have not seen the last of Mucho Macho Man.