Photo: Lou Hodges Jr.
Zipse’s Kentucky Derby Daily - Day 77
New Orleans proved to be the perfect host for today’s major prep race on the Derby trail, the Risen Star Stakes. Much like New Orleans, race winner Mucho Macho Man should transition effortlessly into his new nickname, the Big Easy. A big leggy bay trained by Kathy Ritvo, Mucho Macho Man made today’s big race at the Fair Grounds look downright easy, against a deep field of Derby prospects.
Sitting comfortably off the early pacesetters under substitute rider Rajiv Marajh, the Big Easy contended for the lead as the field turned for home. At the same time Santiva was also making his presence known just outside of him. As the leaders hit the eighth pole it appeared that Santiva and Mucho Macho Man would fight it out to the wire, but the battle would not last long. The Macho one, coming off a somewhat disappointing 4th place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park in his last race, hit another gear and methodically pulled away from his nearest competitor to hit the wire a 1 ½ length winner in the solid time of 1:43.98 for the mile and sixteenth test. Rogue Romance finished third.
Today’s win in the Risen Star marked only the second win in seven lifetime starts for the son of Macho Uno, but as his huge strides down the Fair Grounds stretch would attest, he has every appearance of a colt who is beginning to figure things out. He also should relish the added ground that he will be facing as he makes his push towards the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs. In the Holy Bull, he was bumped hard early and was probably a little too close to the pace that day in the one-turn stakes race. Ritvo not only got her charge a two-turn race to run in, but also raced him for the first time without blinkers, after working well without them recently. Losing the blinkers seemed to relax the big horse early, giving Marajh a ton of horse down the lane.
Marajh had picked up the mount after regular rider Eibar Coa suffered a serious injury yesterday at Gulfstream Park. Coa fractured vertebrae in the spill, and underwent surgery today. More information on his longtime prognosis is still pending.
Meanwhile, Ritvo should be a media darling on the Derby trail this Spring. Ritvo at 41 has been a trainer for more than 20 years. In the Fall of 2008 she survived a 17-hour heart transplant operation, six months after being diagnosed with a severe deterioration of the heart muscle.
Owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing & Dream 1 Racing, Mucho Macho Man will now head back to his South Florida base, and probably look for only one more prep race before the Kentucky Derby. As it stands today, eleven weeks from the run for the roses, Mucho Macho Man moves back into my top five of potential Derby winners. I always look for a horse on the improve this time of year and one that will handle the demands of ten furlongs at Churchill. Mucho Macho Man fits the bill on both accounts.