Mucho Macho Man won North America's richest race on Saturday evening, capping a glorious weekend of World Championship racing at Santa Anita.
The winner ran the race of his life, taking command of the Breeders' Cup Classic at the head of the stretch, but needed every bit of his long stride reaching out to the wire, as both Will Take Charge and Declaration of War charged at him from the outside.
As the determined trio hit the wire, Mucho Macho Man had won it by a diminishing nose, with Will Take Charge a fast closing second on the far outside, and the European invader, Declaration of War in between the two, and just a neck short of the win.
After Kristin Chenoweth sang a rendition of "The Best Is Yet to Come", which received mixed reviews, while the field of eleven were led onto the track, the well behaved group broke smoothly from the starting gate. Mucho Macho Man broke alertly near the lead, before grabbing a nice stalking position in fifth on the outside, with Fort Larned, Moreno, and Game On Dude setting a solid early pace.
The Kathy Ritvo trained runner moved smoothly down the backstretch, as he continued to stay in striking distance of the leaders. Getting his cue from his veteran rider, Gary Stevens, the son of Macho Uno moved powerfully to the lead as the field straightened out for the stretch run.
Fort Larned offered the only resistance of the front runners, but the winner quickly put him away as he braced for the challenge coming from the outside.
“This was a tremendous experience to win this race at my age (50). I never expected to be in this situation," said Stevens. "This is the ultimate feeling. It’s the icing on the cake of my career.”
Game On Dude, the 8-5 favorite, making his third attempt in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and for the second consecutive time as the favorite, had little left for the stretch run, becoming the first horse ever to be defeated as the Classic favorite more than once, as he struggled home to a ninth place finish.
Mucho Macho Man ran the ten furlongs of the Classic in 2:00.72 over the fast main track at the Great Race Place. The showcase event of the two-day racing bonanza, that was shown in prime time to a national television audience, became the 8th, and easily most important, victory in 23 lifetime starts.
The 5-year-old colt paid $10.00 for the win.
As for Will Take Charge, the heartbreaking loss continued an excellent string of races to close his sophomore campaign. He may not have won the big prize, but his nose defeat could very well be enough to cement the Eclipse Award as the year's Outstanding Three-year-old Male. The spoils go to the victors, though, and Mucho Macho Man is now a Breeders' Cup Classic champion.
Only one race after finally earning his first grade one victory, the Reeves Racing star is now assured of one Eclipse Award, but also joins Wise Dan in the race for Horse of the Year, and he could not have done it in more exciting fashion.