I just had a feeling that Mucho Macho Man would be defeated yesterday. Coming off a whale of a performance nearly two months earlier in the Suburban, I thought the Kathy Ritvo trainee was vulnerable at a track that he might not appreciate nearly as much as Belmont Park. Only adding to my hunch were the unplayable odds that I expected the son of Macho Uno to be sent off at in the prestigious Woodward. Sure enough, Mucho Macho Man was defeated at odds of 4-5, but I take neither joy in his defeat nor a sense of I was right about him losing the big race. In fact, I have even greater admiration for the strapping bay after his neck loss at the hands of To Honor and Serve.
Forget strapping, an adjective I often use to describe a robust thoroughbred, Mucho Macho Man is double strapping. This colt, owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, makes the size of Zenyatta look ordinary. As the race unfolded, I found it almost comical to see Stay Thirsty keep the big boy pinned on the rail for much of the race, as the impressive proportions of the favorite made the multiple graded stakes winner on his outside look like a greyhound trying to keep up with a thoroughbred. Keep up to him he did, though, just long enough to make the job of Mucho Macho Man that much tougher.
After breaking just a shade slow, Mike Smith let Mucho Macho Man speed up on the inside to gain an in-touch stalking position on the rail, and the rail would be where he would stay for much of the nine furlong race. It occurs to me if you have a horse somewhere between 17 and 18 hands, down on the rail might not be the best place to be. John Velasquez, on To Honor and Serve, and Javier Castellano, aboard Stay Thirsty, seemed as content as could be in keeping Mucho Macho Man stuck there as long as possible.
Straightening out I thought Mucho Macho Man was in deep trouble, but one little tug on the reigns from Mike Smith is all it took for him to push Trickmeister and Stay Thirsty out of his way like rag dolls, and set sail after To Honor and Serve. It looked like he may well get the job done, but the perfect trip To Honor and Serve had plenty in reserve, and as the two pulled clear of the rest, he was able to fight off the favorite by a neck.
To Honor and Serve ran a big race, but I could not help but be more impressed with the runner-up. I’m sure the work he had to do early in the stretch was factor enough in the narrow defeat, but more importantly, I hope that Mike Smith, or whoever rides Mucho Macho Man in the future, has learned to keep the big boy off the rail in the future. He needs to have free running room to keep those long legs moving.
If he can be this good and this maneuverable considering the situation of the Woodward, I can only imagine what he would be like from the outside, at a race track with tons of room, like Belmont, and in a race at a classic distance, like the Jockey Club Gold Cup. It seems that the very young four-year-old (he’s a June foal) is still getting better. After yesterday, I think the Suburban performance may have been only the tip of the iceberg for Mucho Macho Man.