The 2012 Sunshine Millions Program may have been riddled with longshots dominating favorites for the most part of the day, but in the two featured races, both favorites stepped up to the plate, and not only hit home runs but hit their respective balls out of the park. Awesome Feather was nothing but awesome, dueling Tiz the Argument into submission before turning back Delightful Mary, in a visually stunning display of brilliance. Mucho Macho Man, was equally if not more impressive, when he ran the hands off the timer in the Sunshine Millions Classic, holding off Ron the Greek rather easily, while only two-fifths of a second off of Quality Road’s track record.
My debate partner may favor the performance of Awesome Feather and may choose her as his star of the week, however it is my opinion that Mucho Macho Man ran the better race. Take nothing away from the unbeaten Awesome Feather, she looked the part of a superstar yesterday, but it is not their careers that are being debated here. It is each of their respective performances, and while the filly blew her competition out of the water, the clock dictates that had she been in the Classic she would have been beaten soundly by a horse that ran a monster race.
Awesome Feather had every reason to run a blistering final time, and while her final time of 1.49.17 is more than respectable over Gulfstream’s main track, it simply doesn’t hold a candle to the 1.47.91 that Mucho Macho Man ran. Awesome Feather did have a reason to slow down after the type of pace she set, however, if she really wanted to drive the point home, she would have been able to keep that pace going, coming closer to the type of raw time that Mucho Macho Man recorded.
Mucho did run a slower first quarter and half and that is not debatable. It also is not a surprise he was able to come home faster, however, typically when a pace is slower so is the final time of the race. That was not the case with Mucho Macho Man. By the time both had it the 3/8th pole, Macho had run quickened enough to equal the six furlong split by Awesome Feather. She ran her six furlongs in 1.10.82, he was only .02 off of that. His mile split was 1.34.64 while hers was 1.36.21. From what the times suggest, he would have inhaled Awesome Feather after the first six furlongs.
Awesome Feather ran an awesome race, no doubt, no debate. After the pace she contested she had every right to slow down some, just the same as Macho had every right speed up. By that logic, both horses should have finished up their race in relatively the same time, but that didn’t happen. What separated them was Macho’s unbelievable third quarter split. He went the half in 48.02 before ratcheting up the tempo, running his third quarter in a mind boggling 22 and 4/5th. That type of a move, that early, would leave most other horses gasping by the time they hit the final furlong, leg weary from the effort. That was not the case; Macho still had enough in the tank to hold off Ron the Greek, a horse you yourself have liked for quite some time.
Fillies have proven the fair sex over the past couple of years, but on this day, while she put up on heck of a fight, Awesome Feather simply was outdone. Her performance was visually more dominant - everyone loves a good butt-kicking - and she stomped her competition. However, the clock does not lie, and on the same day, same track, same distance, that clock indicates that Macho would have inhaled Awesome Feather. Both wowed, but it was Macho who had the final shot and unfortunately for Awesome Feather, Mucho Macho Man fired a bull’s-eye.
Without question the Sunshine Millions card at Gulfstream Park was the best so far in 2012. Highlighting the day were some huge performances by some of the marquee names on the program. It’s Me Mom displayed she belongs in the conversation with the fastest fillies in the nation. An older, more mature, and more filled-out Mucho Macho Man gives every indication that he is ready to make good on the promise that so many of us saw in him more than a year ago. But for me the most radiant star of the Sunshine was Awesome Feather.
Soundly beaten? Now wait just one minute … how anyone can assume that Mucho Macho Man would have soundly beaten Awesome Feather on Saturday escapes me. Awesome Feather is perfection. She has never lost, and for that matter, has not come close to losing. Mucho Macho Man, as good as he looks since his return, is the only horse in this discussion that has been soundly beaten in his past performances. I like both horses, but I will not assume anyone would soundly beat the undefeated one until it actually happens.
I’ll never forget the afternoon when a hard boiled handicapper turned to me at the track and said, “Time only matters to inmates and cancer patients.” You know what? He was right. I have seen too many instances where the horse who runs the faster time on a given day winds up being beaten by a horse that had previously run slower in a winning performance. The bottom line is that racing is about so much more than numbers on the teletimer. Awesome Feather is a wonderful example of this … all she does is win, and she has a heart as big as all South Florida. You cannot measure this with a stopwatch.
Mucho Macho Man ran a great race, I will not argue that. But remember, he needed to run the time he did just to win the race, first to put away Turbo Compressor, and then to hold off the charge of Ron the Greek. He won by 1 ½ lengths under a drive. Meanwhile, Awesome Feather not only needed to chase the talented filly Tiz Argument in fast fractions, but then she just exploded away from her competition at the head of the stretch. Unlike the male version, the Sunshine Millions Distaff was over at the quarter pole, and the only question was by how much the cruising winner would win.
Ron the Greek is improving under the master tutelage of Bill Mott, and he made Mucho Macho Man earn the victory. It is good to see. Mucho Macho Man should be a threat to the best older males in the country this year if he continues to develop. I join you in your excitement for his future. But you know what is even more exciting? The thought of an undefeated champion, who was given all the time in the world by trainer Chad Brown to recover, and has now come back looking absolutely fantastic. That is exactly what we saw in Awesome Feather on Saturday.
You have not convinced me. The distaff set has been dominating American racing the last three years, and it looks like we might be in store for more of the same this year. Havre de Grace, Royal Delta, Awesome Maria, Zazu, It’s Tricky, and of course, Awesome Feather make up the deepest, most talented group of older females that I can remember. Mucho Macho Man looked good on Saturday, but after three consecutive female Horses of the Year, I will not give a second thought to calling Awesome Feather the Horse of the Month for January. She earned it.