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HRN Original Blog:
A New York State of Racing

A Super Saturday for the Old Guard

On Super Saturday on both the west and east coast, at Santa Anita and Belmont Park, the old guard showed up and brought their best. First it was Little Mike, followed by Ron the Greek, and finally out west it was Mucho Macho Man. The good old boys said not so fast to the three and four year-olds, we still have some run in these not so young legs.
Bill Mott probably said it best when it comes to these veterans of the older male division, "You gotta love Ron. Everybody loves Ron the Greek! This is the Ron the Greek today. This is the same type of race he ran in the Sunshine Millions, the same type of race he ran in California when he won the Santa Anita Handicap. Every once in a while, he'll throw one of these. I can't determine when, but he did it today."
What Mott said about his veteran Ron the Greek could easily apply to Little Mike and Mucho Macho Man. Just take out Ron’s name and insert the others. A day like yesterday makes it clear why racing fans love to see horses run when they are five and six years-old.
In 2012 Little Mike won four races including the Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs, the Arlington Million (G1), and the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1). As the calendar year changed and Little Mike became a six-year old, he struggled. His first four starts this year could yield only a fourth place finish in the United Nations. Age seemed to have caught up with Little Mike.
On Super Saturday Mike Smith got up on Little Mike. Before the race Smith watched video of the way Ramon Dominguez rode Little Mike and he decided to do what Ramon had done. Smith positioned his hands in Ramon’s style and Little Mike took command of the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at the top of the stretch and hung on to win by a nose.
Little Mike’s trainer Dale Romans said, "It was pretty smart of Mike to think like that.  Whatever he did, it worked. He ran like he did for Ramon. Ramon texted me last night to congratulate me. I told him what Mike said, and he got a kick out of that."
Ron the Greek had not won a race since Jan. 19th of 2013. He had had five starts since then, all against the best of the division, but his old bones could do no better than third place. Super Saturday was also the day for this six year-old, when the 21-1 shot soundly defeated one of the strongest fields in the Jockey Club Gold Club. Some how Ron the Greek had found his “A” game again.
Finally out on the west coast, Mucho Macho Man took his turn representing the old guard in the Awesome Again (G1). MMM had not won a race since July 7th in 2012 when he took the Suburban at Belmont Park. In his career, 21 races had gone by and he had earned over $2.4 million. Many people were asking the same two questions. Had Mucho Macho Man lost a step and would he ever win a grade one race?
Asked and answered, his loyal fans made him the 1.60-1 favorite and Mucho Macho Man showed up and the result was a spectacular 4¼-length victory.
Racing needs its best horses to keep running when they get older because when those veterans bring their “A” games the racing fans get treated to best of horse racing. 


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Older Comments about A Super Saturday for the Old Guard...

Makes an old guy like me feel good about waking up in the morning.
I always had faith that MMM would finally break through and get that Grade 1 win. What Smith did with Little Mike is exactly why he's such a successful jockey.
Amazing how just when you think their best days are behind them, they re-emerge at the perfect time of year (re: Breeders' Cup).
Johnnie, feeling is mutual on all accounts! I'm glad I could share some of the day with you.
This is a great piece. Thanks for your kindness on Saturday nice meeting you-Weekly Tout

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Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.


Matt’s articles and tweets frequently appear in the America’s Best Racing weekly Notebook. In 2012 he became a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.


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