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HRN Original Blog:
Past the Grandstand

2013 Breeders' Cup Highlights: Mucho Macho Man's Classic

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

 

Please enjoy the final installment of my “2013 Breeders’ Cup Highlights” series, which features the greatest personal moments of my Breeders’ Cup experience.


Highlight Seven: Mucho Macho Man’s Classic


One month remains until Christmas. Cheesy, made-for-TV Christmas films are already playing, interrupted by commercials displaying festive scenes to the sound of Christmas jingles. Stores are lavishly embellished with Christmas decorations and Christmas parades are just around the corner. 


But before Christmas rolls around, families will sit around a table abounding with mouth-watering foods. Thanksgiving is not just a "kick-off" for Christmas. It is a time to enjoy the presence of family and friends, a time to give thanks. This Thanksgiving, I will certainly be giving thanks for my incredible experience at this year's Breeders' Cup. From the beginning to the end, my time spent at my fourth Breeders' Cup was full of thrills, delights, and moments to forever cherish. Among those moments was a perfect ending: the Classic.


Just as the sun was setting at Santa Anita Park, casting a pink glow over the San Gabriel Mountains, the sun was setting on the thirtieth Breeders’ Cup. Over the course of two days, thirteen championships races had been contested at the Great Race Place, offering thrilling finishes, heartwarming victories, and moments that are now cherished memories. But one more race – arguably the most significant of them all – remained: the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I).


As the suspense soared higher than it had all weekend, eleven Thoroughbreds paraded before the large crowd gathered at the Arcadia, California track. Minutes later, the equine athletes loaded into the gate situated at the very top of Santa Anita’s stretch. Entering the sixth gate was one of the most popular horses to compete in the 2013 championships: Mucho Macho Man.


The five-year-old horse had accumulated a large, devoted fan base throughout his racing career, captivating racing enthusiasts with the heartwarming stories surrounding him.  Mucho Macho Man was meant to be a miracle horse. As a foal, he was born lifeless. Suddenly however, he jumped up and began running. He was truly born to run.


Along the way, he has also charmed fans with the heartwarming story of his trainer, Kathy Ritvo, who overcame a degenerative heart disease and heart transplant to train a horse like Mucho Macho Man. Making the horse even easier to love was the generosity of his owners – both current and previous. Through Dream Team Racing and Patti and Dean Reeves, fans have developed a special attachment to Mucho Macho Man.


As if he didn’t have enough fans on his side already, joining his team for the Breeders’ Cup was Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who was riding in the Breeders’ Cup for the first time since 2005 and searching for his first Breeders’ Cup victory since 2000. The now 50-year-old rider had come out of retirement in January and after a successful racing season that included a win in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) and in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I) the previous day, a Breeders’ Cup Classic victory would serve as the perfect exclamation point for one of the greatest comebacks of all-time.


It would be unlikely for a scriptwriter to invent a story like Mucho Macho Man’s. Just like so many of horse racing’s unique, yet true fairy tales, an abundance of heartwarming plot lines surround his journey. With all the touching stories surrounding the horse, how could one not cheer for Mucho Macho Man? It was evident that he had a mass of fans rooting for him at Santa Anita. All around the Great Race Place, people held signs that read “Your Hometown Horse – Mucho Macho Man.”


A tall, lanky son of Macho Uno, Mucho Macho Man was seeking redemption in the Classic. A year earlier, he had run the race of his life, only to fall a half-length short to Fort Larned. That rival, as well as a multitude of other talented horses – including the favorite Game On Dude, the promising three-year-olds Palace Malice and Will Take Charge, and the invading European Declaration of War – had aligned to challenge him yet again in the 2013 edition of North America’s richest race.


The 17-hand-plus bay broke sharply from the gate alongside the star-studded Classic field to the cheer of the crowd gathered at Santa Anita. Although he took the earliest lead, Stevens allowed the pacesetters to pass Mucho Macho Man as the field raced past the stands for the initial time. Mucho Macho Man eased into a comfortable position behind the leaders, racing several paths off the rail as the horses charged into the clubhouse turn.


Just over two lengths separated Mucho Macho Man, who continued to race widest of all, from the frontrunners as the field reached the backstretch. He remained in that comfortable spot down the far stretch, gradually growing closer to the leaders.


As the field began to enter the far turn, Mucho Macho Man grew even with the pacesetters, his large frame overtaking the others midway through the curve. His long strides carried him to the front, giving him a clear lead as the horses turned for home. But Fort Larned continued fighting along the rail and to Mucho Macho Man’s outside, threatening rallies were being made by Declaration of War and Will Take Charge.


The theme in Mucho Macho Man’s story has always been heart: Kathy Ritvo’s heart, the kind heart of his owners, the determined heart of Gary Stevens, and, of course, the unwavering heart of Mucho Macho Man. This theme was incredibly prevalent as Mucho Macho Man approached the finish line of the 2013 Classic. Declaration of War and Will Take Charge could have overtaken them. But they didn’t.


Instead, in one of the narrowest finishes in Classic history, it was Mucho Macho Man’s nose that ended up in front. The most thrilling race of the 2013 championships had granted Mucho Macho Man with the most special victory of his career, bringing smiles to his jockey, to his owners, to his trainer, and to his fans.


Kathy Ritvo had become the first female trainer to win the Classic. Gary Stevens had become the first jockey since Mike Smith in 1997 to capture both the Distaff and Classic in the same year. Mucho Macho Man had become the first horse since Alysheba in 1988 to redeem a runner-up effort in the Classic with a victory. History had been made, the smiles were recorded in photographs, and videos showed the action after it had passed. But none of these things could capture the atmosphere at Santa Anita following the Classic. Happiness for the horse and his connections saturated the air. It was a fairy tale ending for the Breeders’ Cup and certainly a moment I will be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

 

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Older Comments about 2013 Breeders' Cup Highlights: Mucho Macho Man's Classic...

Attsa my boy!.
Great article, captured all the feelings of BC13 that made it so special. One small correction though, Mike Smith repeated his Classic Double in 2011 with Royal Delta and Drosselmeyer. It was very exciting to see Gary do the same upon his return to the saddle.
  • grandstand · Thank you very much! Actually, Jose Lezcano was aboard Royal Delta for the 2011 Ladies' Classic (Distaff). She won that race before Mike Smith became her regular rider. - Mary Cage · 391 days ago

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About Mary Cage

 

Mary Cage, an 18-year-old avid fan of horse racing, has been around horses all her life, having owned, shown, and judged them for as long as she can remember. She began writing her own horse racing blog, Past the Grandstand, in August 2011 and has since been published with the BloodHorse's website, the American Quarter Horse Association's magazine "America's Horse", and Southern Racehorse Magazine. Blogging about the sport of horse racing combines her love for horse racing and writing. In her personal horse experience, she has won several horse judging contests at major stock shows and, in the show ring, is a Texas 4-H State Champion and Appaloosa Youth World Championship Show Top Ten finalist. 

 

Mary has always aspired to have a career with horses and since her love for horse racing began, she has dreamed of pursuing a career in the Thoroughbred racing industry, possibly as a writer. With this blog, she hopes to show readers horse racing through the eyes of a young fan as she writes about assorted horse racing topics.