The 4-year-old son of Macho Uno closed with a rocketing late run far outside to upset the 1 1/16-mile event for older turf horses by a neck at odds of 41-1. He earned his first graded stakes score for Signal Hill Farms and trainer Henry Collazo while completing the distance in 1:40.39 under jockey Juan Leyva, beating out 19-1 shot Tiz Sardonic Joe and 4-1 Big Blue Kitten. Nikki's Sandcastle, the 2-1 favorite, finished fourth.
"He's getting better, like most of the Macho Uno's when they turn of age," Collazo said of the winner. "Ever since he was a 2-year-old, I've been saying, 'More distance and a little bit more maturity, the sky's the limit.'"
Leyva let the dark gray relax far at the back of a field scratched down to 10 with the absence of morning-line favorite Dominus and main track only entrant Pants On Fire, as pacesetter Fifty Proof clicked through opening fractions of :23.10 and :46.99 with moderate prompting from Quick Wit and Tiz Sardonic Joe.
Fifty Proof maintained his advantage along the rail through three-quarters in 1:10.54 and Mucho Mas Macho was still at the back of the pack, but as the field came off the turn and set down for the drive in a 1:34.45 mile, several runners bunching up near the rail made it difficult to finish with a flourish from the inside. Fifty Proof faded while Quick Wit poked a momentary head in front, with Tiz Sardonic Joe putting in a strong run and looking to be the eminent winner in his graded stakes debut.
That's when Mucho Mas Macho, closing hard from his far-back position, arrived upon the scene. The diminutive gelding caught his larger rival just in time to post victory.
"With this horse I don't have much choice," Leyva said. "I just let him fall back and at the half-mile pole I started to urge him a little bit. Down the lane I just tried to get a clear path for him to run because he has a tremendous kick."
Mucho Mas Macho returned $85.20, $30.20, and $10.80, while Tiz Sardonic Joe brought $16.40 and $8 and Big Blue Kitten paid $3.80. The exacta paid $1,322.60 while a $1 trifecta was worth $5,037.20.
"Turning for home I swung him out and thought we had a shot," jockey Corey Lanerie said of his ride aboard Nikki's Sandcastle. "I don't think today was his best race, he's been running a lot, maybe he just needs a little break and we'll bring him back and go from there."
"It really was a perfect trip," trainer Eddie Kenneally remarked of the run from Tiz Sardonic Joe. "Jose Lezcano gave him a great ride. It was a step up in class today, but I thought the horse responded very well and ran a very good race."
Mucho Mas Macho was coming off a runner-up finish 1 3/4 lengths back to Twilight Eclipse at odds of 39-1 in the Nov. 24 W.L. McKnight Handicap (gr. IIT) at Calder Casino & Race Course. He had not registered a win since taking the Sept. 15 Needles Stakes at Calder by a neck. The Ft. Lauderdale victory improved his record to five wins and four seconds from 20 starts, with earnings of $227,951.
"This was a stepping stone," Collazo said. "The way I have his year planned out, we're going to go probably into the Mac Diarmida (gr. IIT, Feb. 16), and then into the Pan American (gr. IIT, March 23)."
Bred in Kentucky by Adena Springs out of the Star de Naskra mare A. P. Andie, Mucho Mas Macho was a $19,000 purchase at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s 2011 selected sale of 2-year-olds in training.