In Race Decided by Inches, Macho Uno Was Number One

Article published in the Nov. 11 issue of The Blood-Horse
Bobbing and weaving under the left-handed encouragement of jockey Jerry Bailey, Macho Uno raced greenly down the stretch of the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I). Green is Kermit the Frog. Green is a dewy meadow in springtime. Macho Uno's greenness is like that of a Midori cocktail or a heaping bowl of salsa verde with a thick slice of jalapeno--he comes with a mean kick.

As Macho Uno kicked clear of the pacesetters under the shadow of the Churchill Downs Twin Spires, a threatening menace in the form of Point Given was flying on the far outside under the green and white silks of The Thoroughbred Corp. But green also means go, and Macho Uno dug in and reached for the wire.

The short lead of the compact, well-muscled son of Holy Bull was diminishing with each stride of the super-sized Point Given, but like a young, green sapling, he bowed but never snapped, and the two appeared to hit the line together. Gary Stevens, the rider of Point Given, was thinking it was déjà vu all over again, as his off-the-pace tactics worked the year before on the same owner's Anees. "I was having flashbacks at the sixteenth pole," Stevens said. "I really thought we
were going to get there."

The slow-motion replay didn't give many clues. Only the photo-finish camera gave the ever-so-slight nod to Stronach Stables' Macho Uno, who was winning for the third time in four career starts. Another photo, the photo op in the winner's circle, offered more than a touch of irony. Presenting the trophy to winning owner Frank Stronach, chief of Magna Entertainment, was Tim Smith, chairman and chief executive officer of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. Magna's tracks were seven of the 22 that dropped out of the NTRA the week before the Breeders' Cup.

"Macho Uno means number one man (in Spanish), and he proved it today," owner Stronach said.

Joe Orseno, Macho Uno's ever-ebullient trainer and hardly one to be at a loss for words, nearly was. "There aren't words," he said afterward, while talking about both Macho Uno's victory and Perfect Sting's win in the Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) a half-hour before. "But it's a great feeling. I dreamt about it, coming over here today."

"Sometimes you have to dream," said Stronach.

However, it wasn't a dream--it was long green, as Macho Uno earned $556,400, making him the leader in the clubhouse for an Eclipse Award and the measuring stick for next year's classics. As a half-brother to 1998 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Awesome Again, his pedigree suggests he'll thrive at three and beyond.

"Awesome Again didn't run as a 2-year-old," Stronach said. "Macho Uno is larger and stronger at this stage of the game."

"He's talented, full of ability, and he's just a young colt," Orseno said.

Macho Uno tipped his talented hand not long after coming to Orseno, winning a July 26 maiden race at Saratoga in impressive fashion. He came off the farm where he had received his early education from Danny Vella, who conditions Stronach's youngsters and those off the track for a freshening at Adena South in Florida. Both Orseno and Stronach give credit to Vella--"He had him before me," Orseno said of Vella and Macho Uno. "I just managed him."

"You have to give credit to the team," Stronach said. "We know Joe is going to get a good horse."

Thrust into the Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) during the last weekend of the Saratoga meet in just his second career start, Macho Uno was forced to slug it out while in a difficult spot between horses nearly the entire length of the seven-furlong race, and still came up only a neck shy of a dead heat between more seasoned 2-year-olds City Zip and Yonaguska. Those two, plus another 11 youngsters, would flounder in his wake a scant two months later on the world's largest Thoroughbred stage.

Bailey got a first-hand feel of the power of Macho Uno in the Grey Breeders' Cup Stakes (Can-I) at Woodbine on Oct. 9 as they motored away from three rivals to win by seven widening lengths. The trip to Canada was by design, but the shortness of the field was not.

"We really wanted a two-turn race for him," Orseno said of the trip north for the 1 1/16-mile Grey, same as the Juvenile distance. "The races in New York were around one turn. It was either the race in Canada or the (Lane's End) Breeders' Futurity (gr. II) at Keeneland. Mr. Stronach is from Canada and likes to see his horses run, so we went up there. At the time there were 29 nominated for the Grey. We didn't know only three others were going to show up."

After the cake walk in Canada, Macho Uno was shipped to Kentucky, where he settled in with the rest of Orseno's horses, including Perfect Sting and Classic starter Golden Missile.