The one-turn mile contest at South Florida’s Gulfstream Park gave the son of Macho Uno his second stakes win of the year and his first graded stakes victory since taking the 2011 Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) more than a year ago. Mucho Macho Man is trained by Kathy Ritvo and owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Dream Team One Racing Stable. He was bred in Florida by John and Carole Rio.
Mucho Macho Man faced a short but largely talented field of four other competitors as the 7-10 choice. His primary competition was Tackleberry, a grade II winner and a local favorite based at Calder Casino & Race Course in the barn of his owner/trainer Luis Olivares. Also in the field was grade I winner Jackson Bend, owned by Robert LaPenta and Fred Brei, who was coming off a win in the Hal's Hope Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park. Jackson Bend, the high weight carrying 122 pounds, is trained by Nick Zito.
When the gates opened, it was Tackleberry and rider Rajiv Maragh who took an anticipated spot on the front end and led the field through fractions of :24.52, :47.04, and 1:09.87. The pacesetter has good credentials at Gulfstream, having defeated Soaring Empire and Tizway in this race a year ago, but he was coming into a race off a nine-month layoff.
Mucho Macho Man, ridden by Ramon Dominguez, stalked Tackleberry the length of the backstretch then began to move through the turn. He got a short lead coming out of the turn but Tackleberry, third choice at 5-1, wasn’t done and fought back to run several more strides none-to-nose with the favorite. Mucho Macho Man dug in, however, and pulled away in the final furlong to win by two lengths in a final time of 1:35.50.
"There was a little seam as we went down the backside, and I didn’t hesitate to take it," said Dominguez. "From there, he just fell into that long stride of his and I just pressed a little bit when I felt it was the right time. He’s just been so impressive. He’s run so well going both one turn and two turns, I can’t really tell if he’s better on one than the other."
Ritvo said she didn’t need to give Dominguez any instructions.
"We let him work the other day—the last work—and he just wanted to do it," she said. "He came into the race perfectly."
Ritvo and Dean Reeves both said the next race for Mucho Macho Man won’t be decided for awhile.
"We really hadn’t talked about it," Reeves said. "We’ll see in the next couple weeks and see what the best spot is."
Tackleberry was second by half a length over the late-running Jackson Bend, who raced three or four paths wide through most of the race after thrwoing his head at the start and breaking poorly. Jackson Bend was 2 1/2 lengths in front of Cajun Breeze. Clean Shot finished last and Soaring Stocks had been scratched.
The winner paid $3.40, $2.20, and $2.10. Tackleberry paid $3.60 and $2.40, while Jackson Bend,the 7-5 second choice, paid $2.10. The $2 exacta paid $14.40, and the $2 trifecta paid $15.40.
Jockey John Velasquez said Jackson Bend acted up as the gate opened and he stumbled going out.
"I had to make a move a little earlier than I wanted to keep close and from there he just didn't have it," the rider said. "Nothing you can really do. Just move on to the next one."
Olivares was thrilled with Tackleberry’s performance.
"He ran a monster race, a monster race," he said. "I’m very happy. I’m very proud of him. He came back, he never quit. I’m very proud of him."