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Toasting with Andrew Champagne

The Big 'Cap: A Main Event Anywhere

Mucho Macho Man wins the Breeders' Cup Classic
Photo: Don August

 

What we have coming up next weekend in 2014's renewal of the Santa Anita Handicap is akin to a wrestling-style three-way-dance.

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 Saturday afternoon.

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 circle.

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.

 

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Older Comments about The Big 'Cap: A Main Event Anywhere...

If WTC draws an outside post, then it will be game over. He got bundled up in the Donn with that crappy 2 hole and no where to run. anyway, these races for the Big Fella, are just foreplay to the 2014 Breeders Cup.
California belongs to the "MAN"
Big Cap Day is one of racings big events. Racing fans love those big events!
I think that MMM is as good as any of the older horses going a distance of ground on dirt, but I don’t necessarily think he’s better. There are a few that will mix it up with him on any given day and they have the credentials to defeat him. If you look at where Will Take Charge was at this time last year and through the TC races, and then look at him now, especially the way in which he ran against that GP bias in the Donn, he could ascend to the top very shortly just like his sibling Take Charge Indy was in the process of doing before his unfortunate breakdown last year. That being said, MMM has been tough all along and is definitely capable of winning the Big Cap. When he runs his bestg race, he’s very, very good.
Seeing WTC live really makes me think if he's on a fair track he will be unstoppable
Laz, that's Joshua's Comprise for you. Sometimes he runs crazy good, and sometimes he doesn't show up at all.
I'm going to be a bundle of nerves by the time this thing finally goes to post. But I have full confidence in Mucho Macho Man!
Agreed EP. MMM gets better with every year. When he's hot and ready to go, it's hard to stop him
Joshua’s Compromise who MMM beat in the Millions was thumped by 19 lengths by WTC in the Donn and was well back (last) today in an allowance.
WTC all the way!! If he brings his A game, MMM stands absolutely no chance
If Mucho Macho Man brings his "A" Game, no one has a chance. This horse is only getting better with every start.
Or Blingo moes them down to win.
Mucho show why you should have been Horse of the Year!
If Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge bring their A games, in my opinion Game On Dude has no chance of winning the Big Cap.
I'm ready for the Big Cap ... Can't we get this thing on today?!?

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Meet Andrew Champagne

 

A native of upstate New York and a graduate of Ithaca College, Andrew Champagne fell in love with horse racing at a very early age on summer trips to Saratoga. His turf writing credits include time spent as a sportswriter, weekly columnist, and handicapper at The Saratogian, a summer working for The Saratoga Special, and "field research" at OTB facilities in Saratoga Springs and his hometown of Kingston. He also spent two years in the athletic communications office at Siena College, and interned with NBC Olympics at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.


Andrew moved to Pasadena, Calif., in October of 2013, and now serves as an Associate Producer in HRTV's Digital Media department and Horse Racing Nation's Southern California writer. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewChampagne, and email him at andrewdchampagne@gmail.com.