Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I)

(gr. I , 8.5f ,)

MACHO UNO (GR/RO h, 122 lb) $556,400
Holy Bull —Primal Force , by Blushing Groom (FR)
B—Adena Springs, KY.; O—Stronach Stables; T—Joseph F. Orseno

Point Given (CH h, 122 lb) $214,000
Thunder Gulch —Turko's Turn , by Turkoman
B—The Thoroughbred Corp., KY.; O—The Thoroughbred Corporation; T—Bob Baffert

Street Cry (IRE) (DK B/ h, 122 lb) $128,400
Machiavellian —Helen Street (GB) , by Troy (GB)
B—Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, IRE.; O—Godolphin Racing LLC; T—Eoin G. Harty

Margins: nose, 1½, ½. Others: Burning Roma 122($59,920) , Arabian Light 122($21,400) , Turnberry Isle (IRE) 122 , City Zip 122 , Flame Thrower 122 , Scorpion 122 , Dollar Bill 122 , Noverre 122 , Yonaguska 122 , Trailthefox 122 , A P Valentine 122 . Winning Jockey, Jerry D. Bailey.

Bobbing and weaving under the left-handed encouragement of jockey Jerry Bailey, Macho Uno raced greenly down the stretch of the Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I). Green is Kermit the Frog. Green is a dewy meadow in springtime. Macho Uno’s greenness is like that of a Midori cocktail or a heaping bowl of salsa verde with a thick slice of jalapeno—he comes with a mean kick.

As Macho Uno kicked clear of the pacesetters under the shadow of the Churchill Downs Twin Spires, a threatening menace in the form of Point Given was flying on the far outside under the green and white silks of The Thoroughbred Corp. But green also means go, and Macho Uno dug in and reached for the wire.

The short lead of the compact, well-

muscled son of Holy Bull was diminishing with each stride of the super-sized Point Given, but like a young, green sapling, he bowed but never snapped, and the two appeared to hit the line together. Gary Stevens, the rider of Point Given, was thinking it was déjà vu all over again, as his off-the-pace tactics worked the year before on the same owner’s Anees. “I was having flashbacks at the sixteenth pole,” Stevens said. “I really thought we were going to get there.”

The slow-motion replay didn’t give many clues. Only the photo-finish camera gave the ever-so-slight nod to Stronach Stables’ Macho Uno, who was winning for the third time in four career starts. Another photo, the photo op in the winner’s circle, offered more than a touch of irony. Presenting the trophy to winning owner Frank Stronach, chief of Magna Entertainment, was Tim Smith, chairman and chief executive officer of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. Magna’s tracks were seven of the 22 that dropped out of the NTRA the week before the Breeders’ Cup.

“Macho Uno means number one man (in Spanish), and he proved it today,” owner Stronach said.

Joe Orseno, Macho Uno’s ever-

ebullient trainer and hardly one to be at a loss for words, nearly was. “There aren’t words,” he said afterward, while talking about both Macho Uno’s victory and Perfect Sting’s win in the Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) a half-hour before. “But it’s a great feeling. I dreamt about it, coming over here today.”

“Sometimes you have to dream,” said Stronach.

However, it wasn’t a dream—it was long green, as Macho Uno earned $556,400, making him the leader in the clubhouse for an Eclipse Award and the measuring stick for next year’s classics. As a half-brother to 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Awesome Again, his pedigree suggests he’ll thrive at three and beyond.

“Awesome Again didn’t run as a 2-year-old,” Stronach said. “Macho Uno is larger and stronger at this stage of the game.”

“He’s talented, full of ability, and he’s just a young colt,” Orseno said.

Macho Uno tipped his talented hand not long after coming to Orseno, winning a July 26 maiden race at Saratoga in impressive fashion. He came off the farm where he had received his early education from Danny Vella, who conditions Stronach’s youngsters and those off the track for a freshening at Adena South in Florida. Both Orseno and Stronach give credit to Vella—“He had him before me,” Orseno said of Vella and Macho Uno. “I just managed him.”

“You have to give credit to the team,” Stronach said. “We know Joe is going to get a good horse.”

Thrust into the Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) during the last weekend of the Saratoga meet in just his second career start, Macho Uno was forced to slug it out while in a difficult spot between horses nearly the entire length of the seven-furlong race, and still came up only a neck shy of a dead heat between more seasoned 2-year-olds City Zip and Yonaguska. Those two, plus another 11 youngsters, would flounder in his wake a scant two months later on the world’s largest Thoroughbred stage.

Bailey got a first-hand feel of the power of Macho Uno in the Grey Breeders’ Cup Stakes (Can-I) at Woodbine on Oct. 9 as they motored away from three rivals to win by seven widening lengths. The trip to Canada was by design, but the shortness of the field was not.

“We really wanted a two-turn race for him,” Orseno said of the trip north for the 11¼16-mile Grey, same as the Juvenile distance. “The races in New York were around one turn. It was either the race in Canada or the (Lane’s End) Breeders’ Futurity (gr. II) at Keeneland. Mr. Stronach is from Canada and likes to see his horses run, so we went up there. At the time there were 29 nominated for the Grey. We didn’t know only three others were going to show up.”

After the cake walk in Canada, Macho Uno was shipped to Kentucky, where he settled in with the rest of Orseno’s horses, including Perfect Sting and Classic starter Golden Missile.

Macho Uno’s talents didn’t go unnoticed by the betting public. As a testament to his apparent toughness, he went postward in the Juvenile at 6-1—fourth choice behind the favorite, Champagne (gr. I) winner A P Valentine at 2-1, and Flame Thrower and Street Cry, the West Coast head-knockers who were both 5-1.

This year’s Juvenile field was considered the most contentious in memory. The traditional purveyors of fine 2-year-old runners, trainers Wayne Lukas, Bob Baffert, and Nick Zito, came stocked with fine offerings. Lukas had Yonaguska and Scorpion, while Baffert sent over a trio in the undefeated Flame Thrower, the Breeders’ Futurity runaway winner Arabian Light, and Point Given, whose off-the-pace win in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile (gr. III) and pace-pressing grittiness in the Champagne had his trainer saying he was “his Derby horse.”

Zito thought he held the ace in A P Valentine, owned by the Celtic Pride Stable of Rick Pitino and partners. The trainer’s boasts and the manner of A P Valentine’s victory in New York resulted in several offers being made for breeding rights to the son of A.P. Indy. Irish-based Coolmore came out on top with a deal announced during Breeders’ Cup week that reportedly starts at $15 million and escalates upward based on performance.

Others in the Juvenile field included City Zip, a four-time stakes winner in New York; Belmont Futurity (gr. I) winner Burning Roma; and Noverre, a half-brother to Arazi representing the European division of Godolphin, which also had Street Cry in from California.

The deep, full field had Orseno concerned about his novice runner. “He needed to get more experience and there might not have been enough ‘cover’ for him in Canada,” the 45-year-old Orseno said.

But it was Macho Uno’s day and he knew it, burning off nervous energy in the paddock before the race, tossing his head, and acting up in his saddling stall. In his pre-race gallops before the big day, he required the assistance of a lead pony. Was this a sign of greenness or greatness?

“We just let him go,” Orseno said of his headstrong macho man. “We let him do it his own way. He’s going to mature, and that’s the positive side. To progress, he’s going to have to learn a lot, get more experience. We don’t want to overdo it, or burn him up in the morning.”

He tuned up in the morning with a pair of sub 1:01 works leading up to the Breeders’ Cup.

On race day, being headstrong played to his strength. Breaking from post four, Macho Uno tucked in behind a trio of front runners in Arabian Light, Flame Thrower, and City Zip and waited for the race to unfold. Shane Sellers put Arabian Light (who had suffered a poor start in his previous race before looping the field with a powerful wide move) right into the race and on the lead. He was eagerly met into the first turn by Flame Thrower, who had broken from post 12, with City Zip to their inside. Macho Uno was in right behind them with Yonaguska to his outside, followed by Noverre and Scorpion. Far back was Point Given, whose sizable 17-hand body and tremendous stride were being harnessed for a late run under Stevens. A P Valentine didn’t get away alertly and was also going to be asked for his best run from a compromising position.

The opening quarter went in :23.40, and the second quarter, clocked in :23.58 for a half in :46.98, was about to put too much pressure on the Baffert pair up front as Victor Espinoza and Flame Thrower applied some pressure during the second quarter.

“I told you to take back, and you’re on the lead,” Baffert scolded Espinoza after the race. “He would have won if you had gotten a hold on him. You’re cooking each other.”

Down the backstretch, Arabian Light still held a half-length advantage over Flame Thrower with Macho Uno gaining strength along the rail. Yonaguska inched closer to his outside, while some at the back of the pack were gearing up for a run, including the Eoin Hardy-trained Street Cry, who had failed twice to run down Flame Thrower in Southern California. A P Valentine was still far back, but didn’t seem to be ready to make headway.

“Jorge (Chavez) said he was sitting on a ton of horse, then ‘bang,’ nothing,” a dejected Zito offered. The trainer later discovered A P Valentine suffered bucked shins, in addition to having flipped his palate and bleeding through Lasix.

After three-quarters in 1:11.21, it was time to separate the men from the boys.

Coming out of the last bend, Arabian Light put some daylight between him and his rivals and looked poised to keep on going. Flame Thrower had thrown in the towel. Bailey eased Macho Uno off the rail and Street Cry found daylight, albeit while coming with a wide move on the turn with Burning Roma creeping up on his inside. Wider still was Point Given, but he had plenty of ground to make up.

Bailey went to work and Macho Uno responded with a burst for the lead, then drifted back toward the rail and ducked out from the whip while juking his way down the stretch. Arabian Light hung tough, but was running on fumes. Street Cry had a clear run, but wasn’t gaining fast enough. On the outside came Point Given, with his lengthy stride, but he came up a nose short. Macho Uno hit the line in 1:42.05. Street Cry was just 11¼2 lengths back and held Burning Roma off by a half-length.

The dramatic finish had Orseno a tad nervous. “I had confidence,” he said with a slight laugh. “It wasn’t until Wayne (Lukas) said I’d won it by a head that I went down to the winner’s circle. He should know; he’s seen enough of these.”

Expect the top three to be among those closely watched next spring. Street Cry, an Irish-bred with a long-winded pedigree, hails from the initial Godolphin experiment of sending a group of 2-year-olds to California with Harty to race before being sent back to Dubai to train for either the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) or European campaigns. Harty, the former assistant to Baffert for eight years, hails his first season as a success. He had 31 2-year-olds at Del Mar this summer, 26 of them colts, and emerged with one star and several others showing promise. Point Given’s Derby credentials were stamped as early as mid-September with his eye-catching run at Turfway. His size and stride seem to suit Churchill Downs and 11¼4 miles to a tee.

The Derby dominators of the ’90s, Lukas, Baffert, and Zito, need to make room at their classic banquet for Orseno. A patient trainer with an even more patient owner, he felled the mighty Fusaichi Pegasus with Red Bullet in this year’s Preakness (gr. I), and now has the horse that will be the talk of the winter.

“He’s going to be rested,” Stronach said. “He’ll be a sound, fresh horse. If he doesn’t make it to the Derby, then so be it.” Stronach, outspoken on most any topic, has never been one to push his horses. “We’re happy with what we’ve accomplished today. He’ll go back to Danny at the farm and we’ll let him mature.”

“We will look at early May and work backward from there,” Orseno said. There is nothing backward about his horse, however, and winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in just his fourth start has his competitors green with envy.