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Mucho Macho Man
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Hodges Photography/Lou Hodges, Jr.

Mucho Macho Man, Mucho Magnifico

Poised to make waves in the 2011 American classics

By the standards of the modern Triple Crown trail, Mucho Macho Man  is already a seasoned veteran. The bay colt has raced seven times so far, four times in stakes company, and has been out of the money only once. He has also proven tough by today’s standards: Just 20 days after finishing fourth in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III), he ran a winning race in the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II)  (VIDEO) to push himself into the classic picture.

Whether Mucho Macho Man, who races for Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Dream Team One Racing Stable, is up to taking on the best of his division is still an open question. Certainly, he has faced off with a couple of tigers–To Honor and Serve and the highly promising Dialed In –in his previous stakes efforts without being disgraced. He may have been facing weaker competition in the Risen Star, but another factor may have been having the blinkers taken off. His performance in the Risen Star was unquestionably his best yet and should set him up well for a crack at the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) or another major Triple Crown prep.

Bred by John D. and Carole A. Rio, Mucho Macho Man was foaled in Florida, which has been the primary home of his male line–that of 1898 Kentucky Derby winner Plaudit–since the mid-1950s, when Plaudit’s sixth-generation descendant, Rough’n Tumble, came to Joseph O’Farrell’s Ocala Stud after having served one season in Maryland. The winner of the 1951 Santa Anita Derby, Rough’n Tumble was one of the better-performing young stallions to come to Florida, and he quickly repaid O’Farrell’s faith in him by siring 1959 Kentucky Oaks winner Wedlock in his first Florida-sired crop and 1959 U.S. champion juvenile filly My Dear Girl in his second. My Dear Girl, of course, went on to produce In Reality, another great name in Florida breeding.

The horse that really put both Rough’n Tumble and Florida on the map, however, was Rough’n Tumble’s 1964 son out of Aspidistra. Named Dr. Fager, the wickedly fast bay colt earned five American championships including the 1968 Horse of the Year title. Retired to his birthplace, William McKnight’s Tartan Farm, Dr. Fager proved a fine stallion but died at age 12, earning a posthumous title as American champion sire in 1977.

None of Dr. Fager’s sons proved able to succeed him, but another Tartan-bred son of Rough’n Tumble, Minnesota Mac, successfully carried on the line through his son Great Above, who was Tartan-bred on both sides as his dam was Dr. Fager’s champion half sister Ta Wee (by Intentionally). A decent stallion while standing at various Florida farms, Great Above begot 39 stakes winners among his 618 foals, but by far the best as both a runner and a sire is 1994 Horse of the Year Holy Bull.

After suffering a career-ending tendon injury in the 1995 Donn Handicap (gr. I), Holy Bull retired to Jonabell Farm near Lexington, making him the first member of his sire line in four generations to stand outside of Florida. (He now stands under the ownership of Darley.) A complete outcross to all the major American sire lines, Holy Bull has not been as brilliant a sire as he was a racehorse but has certainly had his moments. As of February 23, he has sired 44 stakes winners. Among them are 2005 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Giacomo and grade I winners Flashy Bull, Confessional, Bishop Court Hill, and Pohave.

The best of Holy Bull’s progeny to date has been Macho Uno , the sire of Mucho Macho Man, whose victory by a desperate nose over Point Given in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) landed him a title as U.S. champion juvenile male. The colt went on to graded stakes wins at both 3 and 4 before retiring to Adena Springs South, once again returning the Plaudit male line to Florida. (Macho Uno moved to Adena Springs Kentucky in 2008.)

A half brother to 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Awesome Again , Macho Uno has a third-generation cross of Mr. Prospector in his pedigree but is free of Northern Dancer, Seattle Slew, Hail to Reason, and In Reality, making him a potentially valuable outcross sire for most of the American mare population. So far, he has been an inconsistent stallion, getting 145 winners and 14 stakes winners (including grade I winners Macho Again and Wicked Style) from 283 foals of racing age.

The distaff side of Mucho Macho Man’s pedigree is perhaps less familiar. He is the second foal and the first winner for the Ponche mare Ponche de Leona, who took the listed Anoakia Stakes as a juvenile in 2001. She is one of just five stakes winners sired by Ponche (by Two Punch, by Mr. Prospector), who won three stakes races as a 6-year-old in 1995 and was graded-placed at 4, and is the first of his daughters to produce a stakes winner.

At that, Ponche de Leona is a distinct step up from her dam Perfect and Proud, whose sire Nonparrell (by Hoist the Flag) was a good juvenile in Canada but begot just three stakes winners from 168 foals as a sire. A winner of just one of her 19 starts, Perfect and Proud was produced from the non-winning Proudest Roman mare Proud Sal, whose dam Gal Sal (by Blasting Signal) won the 1975 Clipsetta Stakes at 2. The family traces back to Sun Mixa, also the ancestress of Darby Dan foundation mare Golden Trail and her many excellent descendants, but Mucho Macho Man’s branch of the family has been far less successful.

Still, regardless of the class of his immediate antecedents, the colt looks to be a useful sort who is improving at the right time. Whether that improvement will be enough to carry him into the upper echelons of this year’s sophomores is a question only time can answer.