Mucho Macho Man won the 2012 Sunshine Millions Classic.

Mucho Macho Man won the 2012 Sunshine Millions Classic.

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Mucho Macho Man Headed to Sunshine Millions

Breeders' Cup Classic winner to start 6-year-old campaign Jan. 18 at Gulfstream Park.

Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner and Horse of the Year finalist Mucho Macho Man  will make his 2014 debut in the same race he has used for the past two years, the Sunshine Millions Classic Jan. 18.

The $400,000 race at Gulfstream Park restricted to Florida-breds and contested over 1 1/8 miles. It will be the first start for Mucho Man Man since his nose victory over Will Take Charge  in the Breeders' Cup Classic Nov. 2.

Trainer Kathy Ritvo had been pondering the decision for some time before making her announcement on the afternoon of Jan. 10. It will keep her star at home for his the start of his 6-year-old season.

"We're going to go in the Sunshine Millions," said Ritvo, who trains the son of Macho Uno  for owners Dean and Patti Reeves. "He's doing great in his training. He's been working really well, and it's good timing. It keeps him here, and it gives us some options after we come out of here."

Mucho Macho Man won the 2012 Sunshine Millions Classic but was pulled up as the 2-5 favorite in last year's race on a sloppy, sealed track. The big bay suffered an illness shortly afterward and did not make his next start for five months.

"I think it's the right spot, as long as it's dry," Ritvo said.

Mucho Macho Man, who in addition to Horse of the Year is also a finalist for an Eclipse Award in the older horse category, has worked five times over the Gulfstream main track since returning to the worktable in early December. His most recent drill was Jan. 4, a half mile breeze in :47.77. He is expected to work again Jan. 11.

The Classic caps a six-race Sunshine Millions program worth $1.3 million. It serves as a prelude to the 43rd annual Eclipse Awards to be held at Gulfstream later in the evening.

Mucho Macho Man won both the Awesome Again (gr. I) and Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park at the end of his 2013 campaign to stake his claim to post-season honors.

"He's doing great. He started off (last year) slow, but he won the biggest race of the year," Ritvo said.

Mucho Macho Man has eight wins from 23 lifetime starts and more than $5.3 million in earnings. In December, he was named winner of the fourth annual Secretariat Vox Populi, or "Voice of the People" Award, which he will receive this weekend. It recognizes Mucho Macho Man for his popularity and achievement, as well as the notice he has brought to Thoroughbred racing.