Tommy Macho wins the 2016 Fred W. Hooper Stakes

Tommy Macho wins the 2016 Fred W. Hooper Stakes

Coglianese Photo

Tommy Macho Returns to Gulfstream for Hal's Hope

Son of Macho Uno won last year's Fred W. Hooper Stakes impressively.

Already a graded stakes winner when he arrived in South Florida last winter, Paul Pompa Jr. and J Stables' Tommy Macho put forth a career-best effort to beat a solid cast in the Fred W. Hooper (G3) 11 months ago at Gulfstream Park.

Just as he was rounding into top form, the bay son of Macho Uno  emerged from that race with a knee chip that required surgery and kept him away from the races for eight months. Following a pair of off-the-board finishes to end 2016, Tommy Macho returns to Gulfstream for his 5-year-old debut in the $150,000 Hal's Hope (G3) Jan. 14.

Tommy Macho, third in his debut in February 2015 at Gulfstream, went on to run third in the Dwyer (G3) and Pennsylvania Derby (G2) before a 4 1/2-length score in the Discovery Handicap (G3) that fall. Beaten as the favorite in the Queen's County Stakes to end his sophomore season, he kicked off last year with an impressive victory in the Fred Hooper.

In that race, he rallied from next-to-last after a half-mile with a four-wide move to take the lead at the top of the stretch and draw off to win by 3 3/4 lengths over multiple graded stakes-winning stablemate Stanford .

NOVAK: Tommy Macho Sails Away in Fred Hooper

"Unfortunately, when he won last year, he injured his knee and had surgery," said trainer Todd Pletcher. "Honestly, his last couple of races have been a little bit disappointing, but he seemed to really like Gulfstream last year, so we're hoping to get him back on track.

"His race here last year was ultra impressive. We know he's got it in him. We just need to get him back in top form. I think he was a little rusty off the layoff. He's training with enthusiasm now, so hopefully he runs like it."

Tommy Macho made his return in the one-mile Kelso (G2) Oct. 8 at Belmont Park, where he tired to finish last of five after a wide trip. He capped the year finishing fourth, beaten four lengths, in the 1 1/8-mile Richard W. Small Stakes Nov. 19 at Laurel Park.

"The Kelso was maybe a bit too much to ask first time off the bench and then we stretched him out to a mile and an eighth at Laurel, and I don't think he loved the surface there that day and he got a little late the last part of it," Pletcher said. "Hopefully, with those two races under his belt, he's ready to fire his best shot."

Among the horses looking for their first stakes win in the Hal's Hope is Marylou Whitney's Bird Song , the front-running winner of a one-mile, second-level optional claiming allowance Nov. 24 at Churchill Downs to cap his 3-year-old season.

It was the third win in five starts for the gray or roan son of Unbridled's Song, who broke his maiden and won an entry-level allowance, both at six furlongs, in back-to-back efforts last summer. He finished eighth in the Ketel One King's Bishop (G1) at Saratoga Race Course in his stakes debut after racing near the back of the pack in the seven-furlong sprint.

"He won and then won again, so he put us in a position where you're looking at stakes races, but he wasn't quite seasoned enough for it. And I (had) him (ridden) wrong that day," said Ian Wilkes, who trains Bird Song. "I should have let him run a little more. I made the decision, but first time in a stake, I should have let him just run a little more and I didn't.

"He's so talented. He's getting better. I was playing catch-up all last year with him. I felt like I was always chasing his tail. Finally, at the end of the year, I felt like I got him where he should be. He's a really nice horse."

Bird Song tuned up for the Hal's Hope with a five-furlong breeze in :59.35 Jan. 5 at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream's satellite training facility in Palm Beach County. It was the fastest of eight horses at the distance.

"The horse is doing good. I was very pleased with the work," Wilkes said. "We came back and got him back on track, and I feel like now he's taken off. The horse is doing well. He's training good. I wouldn't run him if he wasn't. I don't see a reason to keep him in the barn."

Florida-bred gelding Mr. Jordan, whose four stakes wins include the 2015 Pegasus (G3), takes a two-race win streak into the Hal's Hope, a race where he finished fifth last year. He placed in six consecutive stakes last year, three of them graded, before taking a Parx Racing allowance by 9 1/4 lengths Oct. 17 and the Millions Classic Preview by 3 3/4 lengths Nov. 12 at Gulfstream Park West.

Entries: Hal's Hope S. (G3)

Gulfstream Park, Saturday, January 14, 2017, Race 11

  • Grade III
  • 1m
  • Dirt
  • $150,000
  • 4 yo's & up
  • 5:05 PM (local)
11Dolphus (KY)Joel Rosario117Joe Sharp12/1
22Tommy Macho (KY)Luis Saez119Todd A. Pletcher9/2
33Bird Song (KY)Julien R. Leparoux117Ian R. Wilkes6/1
44Realm (VA)Paco Lopez117Barclay Tagg3/1
55Ami's Flatter (ON)John R. Velazquez117Josie Carroll8/1
66Hy Riverside (FL)Keeneland Sales GraduateJavier Castellano119Antonio Sano15/1
77Team Colors (KY)Jose Lezcano117James A. Jerkens10/1
88Mr. Jordan (FL)Joe Bravo121Edward Plesa, Jr.5/2
99Unbridled Outlaw (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateCorey J. Lanerie117Dale L. Romans15/1