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Mucho Mas Macho Eyes Another Ft. Lauderdale

Having trained horses off and on since 1980 and full-time since 2001, Henry Collazo has won 599 races in his career, none of them bigger than the $200,000 Fort Lauderdale (G2) last January at Gulfstrea m Park.            

Collazo earned his first graded stakes victory in the 1 1/16-mile turf race, when Mucho Mas Macho came flying from next-to-last to win the Fort Lauderdale by a neck at odds of 41-1.            

“It was definitely a roller-coaster ride because when he was turning for home, I believe he only had one horse beat,” Collazo said. “It pretty much didn’t look like he had any of them. He just leveled out and fired.”            

Among the horses Mucho Mas Macho beat last year were Big Blue Kitten, who went on to capture a pair of Grade 1 races in 2013, and multiple stakes winner Nikki’s Sandcastle.            

“It was like watching PowerBall. You’ve got three numbers right, you’ve got four numbers right, your blood pressure starts to rise a little bit,” Collazo said. “By the time you’ve got five right and that sixth ball is spinning around, you’re about to explode. I was thinking, ‘I hope I finish sixth, I hope I finish fourth, oh my God.’ It’s like the New Year’s ball hit. It’s what we all get up in the morning for.”            

Mucho Mas Macho returns to defend his Fort Lauderdale title on Saturday against another outstanding field that includes Nikki’s Sandcastle, multiple Grade 3 winner Summer Front, and a formidable pair from Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott in Tetradrachm and Slumber. Suns Out Guns Out and graded stakes winner Csaba were entered for main track only.            

A confirmed closer, Mucho Mas Macho came from far back to run third in his most recent start, beaten less than a length in the Laurel Turf Cup on Sept. 21. He drops seven pounds from that race to 117 and cuts back from 1 ½ miles to a distance that has produced two of his five wins in 25 lifetime starts.            

“The track was wet and it was a soft going,” Collazo said. “It was actually raining at the time. The fact of the matter is, he circled the field. He started a little bit earlier than I thought, but nevertheless he came with a run. That was a race that showed me he’s still there.”            

To be ridden for the first time by Abdiel Jean, Mucho Mas Macho drew post 10 and is the longest shot in the program at 12-1.           

“You gotta beat somebody to be somebody,” Collazo said. “I have no other choice, and I look forward to it. It’s not like I’m ducking anybody.”            

Trainer David Kassen cross-entered Nikki’s Sandcastle in both the Fort Lauderdale and Saturday’s $100,000 Hal’s Hope (G3) at one mile on the main track. The 7-year-old gelding was last seen winning the Fayette (G2) at Keeneland on Oct. 26, and was scratched from the $100,000 El Prado on Dec. 28 due to a soft turf.            

“If there’s a soft turf, I’m going to scratch out of the race and run in the other race on the main track,” Kassen said. “If they take it off the turf, I’ll stay in the race. I won’t run him on a soft turf – that’s out of the question with that horse. We ran him on a soft turf twice and he hurt himself twice.”            

Howe Great is 3-for-4 on the Gufstream turf, winning three straight races capped by the Palm Beach (G3) in 2012. He had one win but was on the board in five of eight starts last year, including four graded stakes.            

“He’s a hard-knocking horse,” said Rick Mettee, who trains Howe Great for Team Valor International. “He held his form all of last year. Once he got going, he really ran well. We had him in good races all year. There was always just one other horse or two that was better than him, but he fired every time.”            

Hierro is a graded stakes winner on dirt who has made his last two starts on turf, winning a one-mile optional claiming allowance at Gulfstream on Dec. 8 after finishing fifth, beaten 2 ¾ lengths, in his turf debut at Belmont Park last fall.


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