The Gulfstream Park racing season hits another gear Saturday with the
highly-anticipated third clash between Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s
5-year-old Mucho Macho Man and Brous Stable, Wachtel Stable and Jack
Hammer’s 6-year-old Ron the Greek in the $400,000 Florida Sunshine
The 1 1/8 miles Classic will be the climax of the Sunshine Millions
card of six stakes races for Florida-breds worth a total of $1.3
million. Jockey Mike Smith will be back aboard Mucho Macho Man for
trainer Kathy Ritvo and Jose Lezcano retains the mount on Ron the Greek
for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott in the field of seven.
The 2012 season for the two handicap stars began in the Sunshine
Millions Classic here on Jan. 28 with Mucho Macho Man scoring by 1 ½
lengths over Ron the Greek before they went their separate ways, not
meeting again until the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa
Anita on Nov. 3. Mucho Macho Man finished a game second that day to Fort
Larned with Ron the Greek fourth.
“He came out of the Breeders’ Cup really, really well,” said Ritvo
of Mucho Macho Man. “He’s older and stronger now than last year. He will
be wearing blinkers to keep him a little more focused. He’ll be on his
schedule with a race about every two months. He’s been training great
and loves this race track. As always we’ll let Mike (Smith) ride his
race and say ‘good luck’.”
A son of Macho Uno, Mucho Macho Man burst on the national stage as a
3-year-old in 2011 winning the Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds
and finishing third behind Animal Kingdom in the Kentucky Derby (G1). He
ran four times between the two ‘Classics’ last year, winning the
Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2), Suburban Handicap (G2) at Belmont Park
and finished second by a neck in the Woodward Stakes (G1) at Saratoga.
Ron the Greek was sent west for his first start after the Sunshine
Millions Classic early last year and won the Santa Anita Handicap (G1)
by 3 ½ lengths in March. The son of Full Mandate then finished second in
the Oaklawn Handicap (G1) in April and won the Stephen Foster Handicap
(G1) at Churchill Downs in June.
In two more starts before the Breeders’ Cup, Ron the Greek ran a strong
second to Fort Larned in the Whitney Handicap (G1) at Saratoga before
throwing in his only bad one of the campaign when sixth in the Jockey
Club Gold Cup (G1) at Belmont behind un-coupled, Mott-trained stablemate
"He seems to be doing well and he's healthy,” says Mott. “He came
back (from the Breeders' Cup Classic) fine. We're taking on a top horse
in Mucho Macho Man. He's been working very well and it seems like he's
very sharp, so we'll just have to see what happens."
While most of the attention in the Classic will focus on the top
two, Jacks or Better Farms’ homebred 4-year-old Fort Loudon shouldn’t be
overlooked with jockey John Velazquez aboard for trainer Nick Zito. The
son of Awesome of Course concentrated on sprinting for most of last
year after finishing fifth behind Union Rags in the Fountain of Youth
Stakes (G2) and sixth behind Take Charge Indy in the Florida Derby (G1)
here early in the campaign for Calder-based trainer Stanley Gold.
After winning three straight sprint stakes at Calder for Gold, Fort
Loudon was sent to Zito in New York and ran very well to be second in
the seven-furlong Kings Bishop Stakes (G1) at Saratoga before a dull
seventh-place try in the Vosburgh Stakes (G1) at Belmont.
Fort Loudon went on to a good runner-up effort in the one-mile Ack
Ack Handicap (G3) at Churchill Downs in early November and checked in
second again behind Bahamian Squall in the Sunshine State Stakes here on
Completing the field are Roman Hill Farm’s I’m Steppin It Up,
Whatdoyouknow Racing’s Atoned, Rose Family Stable’s Decaf Again and
Larry Fugate’s Cash Rules.