Within a few hours of each other yesterday afternoon, two of the best horses in America reinforced my belief that the 2012 group of older males is among the strongest we have seen so far in the 21st century.
First it was Mucho Macho Man turning in a performance that can only be described as nothing short as the best of his career. A year and a half ago, the gangly and young juvenile could not handle To Honor and Serve in the big fall two-year-old races at Aqueduct. Now a big, strong, and mature man, there doesn’t appear much that Mucho Macho Man cannot handle. With new rider, Mike Smith in tow, the 4-year-old son of Macho Uno colt chased the early speed of Trickmeister through a fast half of 45.68 seconds, with race favorite To Honor and Serve not far behind. Mucho Macho Man threw down the gauntlet on the far turn and it was quickly apparent that he had more horsepower than the horse that had his number back when both were juveniles. The Kathy Ritvo trained colt hit the front as the field straightened out, and from there he coasted to a sparkling 2 ½-length victory over the late running Hymn Book. The win was not only ultra-impressive, over a stellar field, but it was fast, as Mucho Macho Man completed the nine furlongs in 1:46.58 to add the Grade 2, $350,000 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park to his growing list of accomplishments.
Then came the great gelding, Game On Dude and the Hollywood Gold Cup. After following longshot pacesetter Spud Spivens through a robust first half mile in 47.71, Game On Dude took command and started to inch away around the far turn, spurting about three lengths clear of the field with a quarter of a mile to run. As second choice, Richard’s Kid began to gain ground it looked the new King of California may be in for a real challenge, but he dug in and maintained a healthy advantage over his stablemate to the wire under some left handed encouragement from rider, Chantal Sutherland. For Sutherland, the victory marked the first female to ever win the Gold Cup, as the pair prevailed by 1 ½ lengths in the Grade 1 affair. Like Mucho Macho Man, Game On Dude scored his third impressive stakes victory in four starts this year, with only a troubled trip in the Dubai World Cup blemishing his 2012 record.
After seeing what we saw yesterday, it would be easy to argue that the pair are the best two horses in America, but that of course would be forgetting such stalwarts as Ron the Greek, Wise Dan, Shackleford, Acclamation, and a host of other older males that make up this deep group. Not to mention the younger male stares like Bodemeister and Union Rags, as well as, the classy distance loving filly, Royal Delta. Can you imagine what this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic may look like?
It may be too early to get overly excited about the big race, still four months away, but it’s not too early to appreciate a terrific bunch of older males.
I may not have mentioned them yet, but I would be remiss in also giving props to these older males: Animal Kingdom, Caleb’s Posse, Hymn Book, Alternation, Successful Dan, Fort Larned, To Honor and Serve, Richard’s Kid, Trickmeister, Nates Mineshaft, Stay Thirsty, Caixa Eletronica, Redeemed, and Star Guitar. I’m sure I missed a few, but you get the idea.