Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott was all smiles Sunday morning as he reported
that To Honor and Serve emerged from his victory in the Grade 1, $750,000
Woodward in excellent shape.
"He looks great," said Mott of To Honor and Serve, who won for the eighth time in 15 career starts, with six of those victories coming in graded stakes. "It was nice to see him come back."
Mott, who trains To Honor and Serve for Charlotte Weber's Live Oak Plantation, said the Breeders' Cup on November 3 at Santa Anita would be the final major objective for the four-year-old colt, who then will stand as a stallion at Gainesway Farm.
"Obviously, working backward, we want to go to California and we want to go to the Breeders' Cup," Mott said. "We'd have to decide whether we'd run in the (Dirt) Mile or the Classic. I think the connections, obviously, if at all possible and if we had a chance, would like to run in the Classic."
While To Honor and Serve went into the 1 1/8-mile Woodward off an eight-week freshening, Mott said he would consider a race in between.
"Looking at the Belmont schedule for him, maybe we'd have a look at the Kelso (Handicap at one mile on September 29), although it's going back from a Grade 1 to a Grade 2, and it's a handicap, so we'd have to see what happens with the weights," Mott said. "It's on the list of things to think about.
"There's nothing wrong with having a little momentum, a regular schedule (going into the Breeders' Cup)," he said. "I mean, Cigar ran in the Woodward, the (Grade 1) Jockey Club Gold Cup, and the Breeders' Cup Classic and it wasn't too much for him. But there aren't many Cigars, I suppose."
Grazing in the courtyard outside the barn of trainer Kathy Ritvo, Mucho Macho Man looked none the worse for wear following his dramatic runner-up finish as the favorite in the Woodward.
Making his first Grade 1 start since the 2011 Belmont Stakes, the multiple Grade 2 winner shook off some early traffic trouble to come up a neck shy of winner To Honor and Serve following a thrilling stretch run.
"He's doing very good. You can't win them all," Ritvo said. "He ran a good race. He's just over there chilling, eating grass. We didn't get a perfect trip yesterday, but he came back great and that's the most important thing. He didn't give up. He tried really hard."
Boxed in along the rail by Stay Thirsty in the early part of the race, Mucho Macho Man swung out to take on front-running To Honor and Serve at the top of the stretch but could not get by the winner.
"Whatever anybody was going to do, they were going to do. It's race riding," Ritvo said. "I think he's going to learn a lot from the race. When he finally got off the rail, he started running."
Ritvo said that the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup on September 29 at Belmont Park remains an option for Mucho Macho Man, who is being pointed to the Breeders' Cup Classic in November at Santa Anita.
"He ran a great race; a winning race," owner Dean Reeves said. "He just didn't get the trip. We'll try them again somewhere."
Trainer Todd Pletcher was hoping for a better showing from Stay Thirsty, who ended up fifth in the Woodward.
Owned by Mike Repole, Stay Thirsty had won three of four career starts at Saratoga, with one second, prior to the Woodward, in which jockey Javier Castellano lost his whip at the eighth-pole and wound up beaten just 4 1/4 lengths for it all.
"I was a little disappointed," Pletcher said. "It seemed like he broke just a little sluggishly and put himself into a good spot tracking To Honor and Serve and Mucho Macho Man and just needed rousing. Watching the replay a couple times, and considering the tight quarters he was in, it might have been helpful if Javier had his stick and could have encouraged him through there.
"It didn't cost him the win, but it might have cost him third or fourth. I have to talk to Mike and see what's up next for him. When you break it down, it wasn't horrible, but it wasn't quite what we expected based on how well he trained."