Photo: Don August
What we have coming up next weekend in
2014's renewal of the Santa Anita Handicap is akin to a
In one corner is the defending
Breeders' Cup Classic winner, Mucho Macho Man. A winner of three
straight dating back to last year's Awesome Again at the Great Race
Place, the Kathy Ritvo-trained, Gary Stevens-ridden son of Macho Uno
was last seen jogging home by the length of a city block in the
Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park.
In another corner is Will Take Charge,
last year's champion 3-year-old male. D. Wayne Lukas's star has
danced many dances and most recently ran a strong second behind Lea
in the Donn Handicap, his first start since last November.
In yet another corner, though, is Game On Dude, who could become the first horse in history to win three
renewals of the Big 'Cap. The 2011 and 2013 winner, though, is
reeling. He has not won since last year's Pacific Classic at Del Mar,
a stretch that included losses to his two primary opponents next
There are others in the field, of
course. Blingo upset Game On Dude in the San Antonio earlier this
year. The hard-knocking Clubhouse Ride may go postward, and we may
see Rousing Sermon as well, among others.
However, any conversations about the
Big 'Cap center around the big three. Mucho Macho Man, Will Take
Charge, and Game On Dude have combined to win 30 races and amass more
than $14.4 million in career earnings, and each has won several races
of national significance. This may be one of the deepest handicap
races we'll see all year long, and if the top three all fire next
Saturday, any member of the trio could conceivably find the winner's
The Santa Anita Handicap takes top
billing on a card boasting three other graded stakes races. Older
horses will contest the San Carlos Stakes on dirt and the Frank
Kilroe Mile on grass, while 3-year-olds will look to earn valuable
Kentucky Derby points in the San Felipe Stakes.
Still, there's no doubt what next
Saturday's main event will be. These are three of the top horses in
training, and assuming they're healthy, they'll come together for the
kind of matchup rarely seen in thoroughbred racing this early in the
year. The excitement is mounting, and hopefully, these three
top-class horses put on one heck of a show.