Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith flew from his home base of California to ride Mucho Macho Man in the $300,000 Suburban Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park July 7, and the trip paid off nicely as the bay colt won the 1 1/8-mile test in a sparkling 1:46.58 (VIDEO).
The 4-year-old son of Macho Uno cruised to victory by 2 1/2 lengths under a strong hand ride, holding off a late run from Donn Handicap (gr. I) winner Hymn Book. Pacesetter Trickmeister stayed on for third, while 6-5 favorite To Honor and Serve finished fourth in a field of seven older horses.
"I'm really impressed, to be honest with you," Smith remarked after his first ride on Mucho Macho Man. "I knew he was a nice horse, but he really, really impressed me. From the time I got on him, he was so confident. He left the gate in great order. For a big horse, he's quick! I couldn't believe how easy he beat such a strong field. He just ran them off their feet."
Mucho Macho Man was sent off at generous odds of 5-1 coming off a third-place finish in the May 4 Alysheba Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs. First at the start, he rated kindly in second for Smith as Trickmeister led the field through a quarter in :23.06 and a half in :45.68 under jockey Ramon Dominguez. To Honor and Serve ranged up in third after three-quarters in 1:09.53, but was empty when asked for run around the five-sixteenths pole.
That was when Mucho Macho Man was set to the task. He drew abreast of Trickmeister and led the field into the stretch narrowly while running a mile in 1:33.82. He increased his advantage to two lengths at the furlong mark and finished impressively as Hymn Book closed from last off an awkward break to get the place by three lengths under Alan Garcia.
"That was fabulous! What a great day!" trainer Kathy Ritvo exclaimed. "He likes to be here, likes the racetrack here, and we're really happy to be here. He ran a great race. We're so excited."
"I thought he ran great," Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey said of Hymn Book, who was one of three grade I winners in the field along with To Honor and Serve and Stay Thirsty . "It's just a shame we gave up that much at the break. He stumbled leaving there, and by the time Alan had him gathered up they were going pretty fast. He just got too far out of it to try to make up that much ground against those kind of horses. He passed all of them but one. I'm disappointed because I think if he could have been in a good position then he would have had a chance, but I'm pleased with the way he ran."
Hall of Fame horseman Bill Mott said there was "no apparent excuse" for To Honor and Serve, and jockey Jose Lezcano couldn't blame the trip as he did last time out, when the 2011 Cigar Mile (gr. I) winner ran third while trapped inside in the May 28 Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I).
"I had a very good trip, that's all I can say," Lezcano remarked.
Mucho Macho Man returned $13.60, $5.40, and $4.10. Hymn Book paid $5.20 and $3.90. Trickmeister brought $6.20. To Honor and Serve, Stay Thirsty, Buffum , and Endorsement completed the order of finish. Caixa Eletronica scratched.
Bred in Florida by John D. Rio and Carole A. Rio out of the Ponche mare Ponche de Leona, Mucho Macho Man now has a 6-3-4 record from 16 starts, with earnings of $1,306,410. The Suburban was his third win in four starts this year for Reeves Thoroughbred Racing; he took the Jan. 28 Florida Sunshine Millions Classic Stakes and the March 10 Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) earlier in the season.
"It was an awesome job by Mike Smith, Kathy, and everyone involved," said winning owner Dean Reeves. "I'm so happy for my horse. He ran a good race, a solid race. This is really an extraordinary horse. He beat a great field of horses today."
The next start for Mucho Macho Man, who is stabled at Saratoga Race Course, could be the Aug. 4 Whitney Handicap (gr. I) or the Sept. 1 Woodward (gr. I), both at 1 1/8 miles at the upstate New York oval.
"We're going to take it slow and see what happens," Ritvo said. "We'll make sure he comes back great and we'll look again at what's next."