The first time Ron the Greek faced Mucho Macho Man was one year ago in the Sunshine Millions Classic. At the time, both horses were in search of a spark to reinvigorate their careers and propel them to become top handicap horses of 2012. Mission accomplished, as the 2-1 Mucho Macho Man rolled to his highest figure of his career at the time and a 1 ½ length score in the rich Gulfstream Park feature. For the then four-year-old, it was a clear sign that his ability was starting to catch up with the potential that he had long promised. Ron the Greek, let go at 9-2 that day, also ran big. His strong late run never put the winner in danger, but that patented closing kick carried him into the picture and moved him forward, closer to some very big wins last year. While the Sunshine Millions Classic began their respective years, both horses finished it in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. While Mucho Macho Man was lapped on to the Classic winner the entire stretch, Ron the Greek came from well back on the speed favoring track to get up for a nice fourth-place check. It was a good performance from both horses that confirmed their place among the top older males in America. Now as a brand new racing season is just beginning, the Sunshine Millions Classic will once again usher the two big males into what their connections hope will be, at the very least, more of the same in 2013. If they dominated this race last year, this time around it would seem the pair has the rest of the field over the proverbial barrel. The only other horse that has any significant grade one form is Fort Loudon, and he should in no way be confused with the Breeders’ Cup Classic champion of similar name, Fort Larned. Only if both Mucho Macho Man and Ron the Greek run a pair of stinkers would this Fort become a legitimate threat for top money. So that leaves it squarely on the top two. 6-5 and 8-5 on the morning line, you can expect even lower odds on the favorite by the time the starting gate springs open. Is the race destined for the exact same finish as last year, with Mucho Macho Man an easy winner, and Ron the Greek a late-running second?
The answer is likely yes, as Mucho Macho Man holds a distinct tactical advantage over his two-time rival. While the favorite can find a good tactical position, it will be strictly the chore of Ron the Greek to pick up all the pieces down the lane. While there is a fair amount of speed in here, Gulfstream Park is not generally the easiest of places for the one-run specialist to defeat a rival who gets himself into the race earlier. Underestimating Ron the Greek in here, however, still may be a mistake.
The six-year-old son of Full Mandate, who captured a pair of grade 1 races in the Santa Anita Handicap and the Stephen Foster between his meetings with Mucho Macho Man, proved himself with a series of good races last year. Only on a wet surface on Jockey Club Gold Cup day, did Ron the Greek fail to make a strong run and account himself well for trainer Bill Mot. Perhaps the aforementioned Fort Loudon can get brave on the lead and hook Mucho Macho Man early in the lane, thereby softening for a late rush by the Jack Hammer runner. Maybe that is only the little bit of help Ron the Greek may need to turn the tables on his talented foe. Stranger things have happened.
In the end, Mucho Macho Man - Ron the Greek round 3 may prove only a prep to bigger and better things for each, and one with a clear advantage over the other as far as tactical style, but in Mucho Macho Man and Ron the Greek, the Sunshine Millions Classic has attracted two of the best horses in the nation. That in, and of itself, makes Saturday’s race a must watch, and don’t be surprised to see both of them back in November as principal characters in another exciting Breeders’ Cup Classic.