“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”—Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher (604 BC – 531 BC).
For Mike Machowsky and Caracortado
, what seemed like an infinite trek began on Jan. 8, 2012.
Since no one can predict the future, the final destination is unknown, but a rich and rewarding stopover could come on Nov. 2, when Caracortado runs in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita.
Caracortado was a longshot to take any competitive steps at all, especially in the elevated company he was keeping, after suffering an injury that sent him to the sidelines following victory in the Daytona Stakes nearly two years ago.
But trainer, breeder and part owner Mike Machowsky and his dedicated crew were not about to yield, especially since Caracortado himself encouraged them with his stick-to-itiveness throughout the healing process of the persistent ailment.
Specifically, Caracortado injured the ‘frog’ on his right front foot. In medical terms, the frog not only acts as a shock absorber, it is an important part of a horse’s circulatory system, pumping blood up the leg each time the frog makes contact with the ground.
The blood flows down the leg into the digital cushion, a fibrous part of the inner hoof just above the frog, which contains a network of blood vessels. The horse’s weight then compresses the frog on the ground, squeezing the blood out of the digital cushion and pushing it back up the legs.
Caracortado was an appealing human interest story from the start. He broke his maiden first out in a $40,000 maiden claiming race at Fairplex Park, which, while a fixture in California racing lore, will never rival the rich history of iconic venues such as Santa Anita, Saratoga or Churchill Downs. He won four straight races after that, including the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita in 2010.
Caracortado (it means scarface in Spanish) has generated enough interest that he has his own Facebook page (Caracortado) and his own Twitter account (@TheCaracortado).
From 20 career starts, he has won nine, earning $870,105 for Machowsky and his fellow owners who include Super Bowl-winning quarterback Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints; Don Blahut; Steve Sobel; and the Kagele brothers, Tom and Jerry.
After several aborted comeback attempts during his 20-month hiatus, Caracortado finally made it back to the races on Sept. 27, finishing a promising fourth in the Grade III Eddie D. Stakes, run at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf, the California-bred gelding’s favorite course, and identical to that of the Turf Sprint.
Caracortado came out of the Eddie D. well, in fact he worked six furlongs Saturday in 1:12.20 on Santa Anita’s main track. The drill moved him closer to the Turf Sprint. Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, like Caracortado in a successful comeback, this after a seven-year retirement, rides the 6-year-old chestnut son of Cat Dreams for the first time in the Turf Sprint.
“I’ll breeze him again next week, Saturday or Sunday, maybe on the grass,” Machowsky said. “Gary will work him to get to know him a little bit and feel his turn of foot. The horse has trained great. It took a lot of patience from everybody, me, my help, the owners and the horse.
“He never left Santa Anita that whole time. We kept him at the barn here. It’s been a very tedious process, but that’s what it required. You have to be patient with any horse, but when you have one with his ability . . . We didn’t know if he might come back, or what level he might come back at, but right now, he’s training as good as ever.”