Mucho Macho Man , the tenacious 5-year-old winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I), has been selected to receive the 2013 Secretariat Vox Populi Award. Meaning "Voice of the People," the award recognizes the horse whose popularity and racing excellence best resounded with the American public and gained recognition for Thoroughbred racing.
Mucho Macho Man was the unanimous favorite among the three deciding bodies: fans in the online vote, the Vox Populi Committee, and Penny Chenery, who established the award in 2010. Fan interest was at record levels this year with thousands voting in the online poll and some submitting noteworthy write-in votes through the Dec. 21 voting deadline.
Earlier in the year, Mucho Macho Man, who carries the colors of Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, was sidelined for five months as he fought both bacterial and viral infections. Still, the strapping bay son of Macho Uno earned nearly $3 million from only five starts in 2013, and his impressive wins in the grade I Awesome Again Stakes and the Breeders' Cup Classic propelled him into the limelight.
Mucho Macho Man's Breeders' Cup win was a comeback highlight for both his trainer Kathy Ritvo, who has endured several health issues in recent years including a heart transplant in 2008, and his jockey Gary Stevens, who came out of racing retirement early in 2013 after working in television for eight years and appearing in the movie Seabiscuit.
"It is a great honor to think that a horse with such humble beginnings could intertwine the lives and stories of so many people, and tug at the heartstrings of racing fans from all over the world," said owners Dean and Patti Reeves in a statement. "We feel truly blessed to be a part of this story and receive this prestigious award on behalf of Mucho Macho Man and our team."
"I think we all identified with Mucho Macho Man's story of overcoming adversity," Chenery said. "It is a classic theme that transcends sports and life and generations. And because he is poised to return in 2014, racing fans will have much to anticipate in this champion Thoroughbred."
The custom-made Vox Populi trophy will be presented to Mucho Macho Man's connections in a coast-to-coast ceremony Jan. 11. Stevens and the Reeves will receive the trophy at Santa Anita Park, while Ritvo and Mucho Macho Man will be recognized during a simultaneous presentation at Gulfstream Park. The connections will be available at their respective locations to sign autographs. Both celebrations will be broadcast live on HRTV.