From a fan perspective there are many reasons to root for Mucho Macho Man. His amazing life story started at birth. The now strapping giant of a horse was born three weeks late and without life. Lying motionless for several minutes and without breath, it appeared the life of Mucho Mucho Man would never begin, until suddenly he popped to life, as if to say, “Hello world!”
When it was time to get ready for a racing career, Lazarus, as he would be called in his formative days, would make his way to the barn of veteran trainer, Kathy Ritvo. Ritvo, like her star colt, had also cheated death when she received a heart transplant in 2008. Owned by Dream Team Racing, who’s President, Jim Culver, is a heart attack survivor, Mucho Macho Man was not exactly a Kentucky blueblood. Now sire Macho Uno was no slouch, the champion juvenile of 2000, he had sired several stakes winners including Grade 1 winner, Macho Again, but was not exactly the most sought after sire in the bluegrass. Coupled with being the first starter out of a Ponche mare named Ponche de Leona, and being a very late foal of June, it seemed the likelihood of Mucho Macho Man rising to the heights that he has were slim, to say the least.
All good reasons for Mucho Macho Man to appeal to a mass audience, but … that’s not why I’m picking him to win the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic. “Root with your heart, but wager with your head.” is what I always say, and in the case of Mucho Macho Man, I can do both.
As a juvenile Mucho Macho Man showed promise right from the start, and a majority interest in the colt was purchased by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing. Only founded in 2009 when Dean and Patti Reeves purchased a pair of colts, it was in their second year of operation that the Reeves purchased a majority interest in the big, light colored bay from Dream Team Racing after seeing him run second in his debut in a sprint at Calder. Another good effort in a sprint followed, this time a third place finish at Saratoga, before the young colt with the long legs would get the chance to run a route of ground. A strong win in a Monmouth Park maiden in his third start was enough proof for his connections to plunge into graded stakes racing in New York, and a pair of second place finishes behind To Honor and Serve in grade 2 stakes placed Mucho Macho Man firmly on the Triple Crown trail.
Perhaps at a disadvantage because of his youth, and the fact that he was still growing into his very large frame, Mucho Macho Man experienced growing pains as a three-year-old. Still a win in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes in February, a strong third place finish in the Kentucky Derby, and a powerful allowance win after a five-month layoff late in the season, were enough to continue to believe in the potential of the good looking colt.
He looked the part early this year with an easy win in the rich Sunshine Millions Classic, in which he easily dispatched of fellow Breeders’ Cup Classic contender, Ron the Greek. Mucho Macho Man then followed that up with an equally simple win in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap. A return to the twin spires of Churchill Downs would do him no favors, as he struggled home a dull third in the Grade 2 Alysheba Stakes in early May, but it would be in his next start that I believe all that potential of Mucho Macho Man would come to fruition.
Two months after the Alysheba disappointment, and absolutely thriving in New York, Mucho Macho Man won the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park in spectacular fashion. No longer looking like a little boy in a man’s body, he dismantled the solid field with stunning ease. After biding his time behind the pacesetting Trickmeister, the Man took charge turning for home and 2 ½ lengths clear of his competition in the racehorse time of 1:46.58 for the 1 1/8 miles. I can just imagine this same kind of decisive move past favorite Game On Dude in the Classic, for once he strikes the lead, I don't think anyone is going to pass him.
A loss in the subsequent Grade 1 Woodward Stakes deters me in no way from believing in this horse, and in fact, should only serve to plump up his odds for the Classic. On that day he was stuck on a dead rail at Saratoga for much of the way before busting out in early stretch to challenge for the win. After the unfavorable trip, To Honor and Serve had enough to beat him by a neck, but keep in mind; this was a horse that he had already thrashed in the Suburban. Since the Woodward, Mucho Macho Man continues to thrive, as he has done all summer. His workouts at first Saratoga and now Belmont have been, well … manly. I am excited at the prospect of playing him in America’s richest race; I can only imagine how his owners must feel.
I think Kostas Hatzikoutelis, the executive vice president of Dream Team Racing Stable summed it up nicely, “There is not a day that goes by that Jim Culver and I don’t feel blessed for the experiences that we get to share with our family of friends and partners. We often reflect back to discussions with the first partner that joined us in purchasing an interest of Mucho Macho Man. One of them involved the naming of the Macho Uno yearling colt that we purchased in late 2009…’Wouldn’t it sound great when he (Mucho Macho Man) is announced as part of the field of the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup?’ The first part took place in 2011, the latter is coming up!”
What a dream. They lived that Kentucky Derby experience, and a good one at that, with an inexperienced colt who needed time to grow and mature. Now they get to come to the Breeders’ Cup with a powerful man, a Mucho Macho Man. Not bad for a colt who was born without life.