West Point Thoroughbreds’ Macho Again had the determination to overcome four graded stakes winners, plus four others, when he powered to the lead in the $115,200 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs April 26.
The 7 1/2-furlong Derby Trial, once run to prep horses for a start in the Kentucky Derby, is now a race for 3-year-olds not on the road to that race. Still, this year’s running drew a solid field, with the presence of Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) winner Majestic Warrior, Saratoga Special (gr. II) victor Kodiak Kowboy, Swale Stakes (gr. II) winner Eaton’s Gift, and Delta Jackpot (gr. III) victor Turf War.
Macho Again, unraced since a seventh-place finish in the March 22 Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II) for trainer Dallas Stewart, was lightly regarded at odds of 9-2. The Macho Uno colt had just two wins under his belt—a maiden score at Churchill last fall and an allowance win at Fair Grounds in February. The allowance win, by 4 1/2 lengths at six furlongs, came after a sixth-place finish in the Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) at the beginning of the year.
In the Derby Trial, Macho Again was first at the start under jockey Julien Leparoux. Taken back to sixth, he followed a pace set by Eaton’s Gift, who went through a quarter in :22.59 and a half in :45.14 while leading the field well in the center of the track. Lemon Spice raced second, and Da’ Tara tracked along in third.
“He broke good and was in good position," Leparoux said. "As they made the run into the stretch, we got bumped a little bit between the eighth and sixteenth (pole). When he got bumped, it made him go again. I rode him before around two turns, and he was not the same. Around one turn, that’s the kind of distance he needs.”
Moving into the far turn, Macho Again was closing four wide when he was bumped slightly from an outside contender. Jockey Calvin Borel and Fujita moved up the rail to take a brief lead, but Kodiak Kowboy found running room and moved with Macho Again to put a nose in front. Those two took it down to the wire after going five-eighths in 1:09.95, but when asked for more, Macho Again responded with an extra kick to pull away. The margin of victory was a half-length in a final time of 1:28.45.
“He’s a really honest colt," Stewart said. "He had a little bit of trouble at the quarter-pole. Kodiak Kowboy dug in tough at the sixteenth pole and Macho had to work hard to get by him and he finished up really well. He loves the track. He likes the dirt. We’ve just got to keep him off the Polytrack. He trains well over it, but he just doesn’t get down and run on it. There are a ton of good 3-year-old races coming up, so we’ll see (what comes next). This horse still has to mature a little bit, but he’s got a lot of fight in him."
Macho Again returned $14.20, $5.60, and $3.80. Kodiak Kowboy brought $4 and $3, while Fujita paid $5. Majestic Warrior, Da’ Tara, Iron Works Pike, Eaton’s Gift, Turf War, and Lemon Spice completed the order of finish. Zulu Magic scratched.
Macho Again, bred in Florida by Milan Kosanovich out of the Wild Again mare Go Donna Go, was a $150,000 OBS February 2-year-olds in training sale purchase. He has three victories and two runner-up efforts to his credit with earnings of $143,761.