Trainer Horacio DePaz will saddle Recruiting Ready for a start in $100,000 Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream Park with the knowledge that Sagamore Farm's 3-year-old colt has held his own against some of the best of his generation.
Recruiting Ready was graded stakes-placed three times last year behind some of the best 2-year-old colts of the 2016 racing season.
Recruiting Ready, who is scheduled to clash with 10 rivals in the one-turn mile for 3-year-olds, demonstrated considerable talent in his debut at Pimlico Race Course last May, when he scored by 10 1/4 lengths and ran 4 1/2 furlongs in :51.78.
"He was working with another nice 2-year-old that we have, and they were working nice and forward. Obviously, with first-time starters you don't really know how forward they would be," DePaz said. "It was surprising that he was so forward, but he was a colt we always thought highly of going into the race."
"To catch us at the pace that we went—he ran 1:09-and-change. He wasn't crawling. That horse made up a lot of ground to catch us. We were kind of like, 'We thought we were sitting on a special horse. What kind of horse is this?'" DePaz said of Classic Empire, who went on to capture Breeders' Futurity (G1) at Keeneland and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita Park.
After opening up a clear lead in the stretch run of the 6 1/2-furlong Saratoga Special (G2) Aug. 14, Recruiting Ready again had the lead in deep stretch, only to be caught late again, this time by Gunnevera.
"You don't want to make excuses, but that was the weekend that they canceled racing the day before because of the storms that came though. That track was a heavy racetrack that we were running on. He obviously ran into a nice colt as well in Gunnevera, especially what he's done lately," DePaz said of Gunnevera, who went on to win the Delta Downs Jackpot (G3).
DePaz stretched out Recruiting Ready in the 1 1/16-mile Iroquois (G3) over a muddy Churchill track Sept. 17, and the Kentucky-bred colt raced evenly to finish third behind victorious Not This Time, who went on to finish second behind Classic Empire in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
"For that race we took some speed out of him. We worked him some miles and try to get him some foundation to get him to be able to go two turns and settle," DePaz said.
"(In the Iroquois and Buffalo Man), he didn't have that kick that he had in his previous races. The jocks came back both times and said he felt fine but just didn't take off with them on the turn. Obviously, I'm leaning toward him not liking an off track," DePaz said.
Joel Rosario has the return mount aboard Recruiting Ready and DePaz is hoping for a fast track for the Mucho Macho Man.
"He's had some bad luck. Hopefully in 2017 we can change that around," he said.