Paul Pompa Jr. and J Stables' Tommy Macho didn't have the easiest trip in the $150,000 Hal's Hope Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park Jan. 14, but that didn't stop 5-year-old son of Macho Uno from taking off down the stretch to win by 5 3/4 lengths like nothing happened.
Dolphus went for the early lead in the one-turn mile and set fractions of :23.15 and :45.37, with Bird Song, Tommy Macho, and Unbridled Outlaw stalking close behind. Going into the turn, Bird Song and jockey Julien Leparoux began to pressure Dolphus, while Luis Saez was forced to check Tommy Macho, who then stumbled before dropping back to fifth.
"I'll have to see the replay but it looked like he kind of got cut off a little bit and clipped heels and bobbled there for a second, but right after that happened he got up and took off," trainer Todd Pletcher said.
Bird Song took over at the quarter pole, as Saez maneuvered Tommy Macho to have a clear path to go between that one and Realm. Under encouragement from his jockey, Tommy Macho found a new gear and won going away in a final time of 1:35.20. Bird Song finished second, with Realm 1 1/2 lengths back in third.
Tommy Macho paid $7.20, $4.40, and $3.20 across the board. Bird Song returned $6.40 and $3.80, while Realm paid $4.40.
"Unfortunately we had to do knee surgery on him after he won here last year so it's almost been a year to get him back on form," Pletcher said of Tommy Macho. "His first couple of starts he seemed a little bit rusty, but he's been training better and it seems like he likes this track a lot.
"Anytime you have a horse come back from a knee injury like that, and have to have surgery and come back and regain form it's fun to see and rewarding to see him come back and do well. It's fun for us today to win two stakes with two horses winning a year apart (Sandiva won the grade 3 Marshua's River for a second year in a row earlier on the card)."
Saez said it wasn't an easy trip, but Tommy Macho responded under his asking.
"I think when he fell a little bit in the middle of horses, he felt a little intimidated, and he started to back up," the jockey said. "That's why the horse on the rail stole my position, and I came out and I almost clipped heels. Then I hit my horse and he started running. He came back and beat them like nothing happened."
Tommy Macho raced three times last year, finishing fourth last time out in the Nov. 19 Richard W. Small Stakes at Laurel Park. His most recent win, before his knee surgery, was last February at Gulfstream in the Fred W. Hooper Stakes (G3), where he defeated Stanford by 3 3/4 lengths.
Bred by John Liviakis in Kentucky, Tommy Macho was a $25,000 purchase by Juan Naciff from the War Horse Place consignment at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton fall yearling sale. He has five wins from 12 starts with $548,970 in earnings.