Grade 1 winner Big Macher, who was retired from racing during the summer of 2017, showed up on the Turf Paradise work tab March 17, but his owner said the 8-year-old Beau Genius gelding likely won't be returning to racing.
Trainer Richard Baltas got the 2014 Bing Crosby Stakes (G1) winner back to racing off a nearly 18-month layoff in 2017, and he won the Thor's Echo Handicap at Santa Anita Park in his first race back. Baltas was targeting the Bing Crosby again for Big Macher, but a similar suspensory injury to the one that knocked the gelding out of training in 2016 resurfaced, and the trainer advised the ownership to retire the California-bred.
So when Big Macher breezed three furlongs in :37 2/5 at Turf Paradise for trainer Molly Pearson, it came as a surprise. But owner Tom Mansor said the workout is part of a plan to keep the horse fit for a future career outside of racing and that he would only race again "if some miracle happens, maybe, but I don't think so."
"We turned him out at my daughter (Katie Jenkins' farm) in Hemet, and she thinks he'd be a good candidate for that Thoroughbred Makeover (run by the Retired Racehorse Project), but he has some suspensory problems," Mansor said Sunday. "Our vet said he's got some scar tissue and said to get him out in a field.
"But we sent him to Turf Paradise to make sure he's put together. There's a swimming pool there, and Molly has a couple of my horses, so let's see if he can hold together enough to make a nice hunter/jumper. He's too nice of a horse to just throw him out in a field, so we galloped him a couple times and breezed him yesterday—just nice and slow—and he goes to the pool two or three times a week. We're not trying to win the Breeders' Cup.
"Racing again—it isn't going to happen. But we're going to keep him in—I hate to say the word 'training'—but we're going to keep him toned."
The other half of Big Macher's ownership group, Tachycardia Stables owner Brendan Bakir, said he could potentially take legal action if Mansor tried to race Big Macher again.
"I just learned about it (Sunday) morning," Bakir said of the Saturday workout in Arizona. "He is retired, and I have a contract that says I have full control (of his racing career). He's not a horse I want to be racing. There's definitely no upshot to running and risking getting him hurt. Shame on Tom. I don't even want to call. I'll just have my lawyer send a letter."
Both Bakir and Mansor admitted their relationship is frayed, and they haven't spoken in years.
"Can I stop him from running if he runs Wednesday? Probably not," Bakir said. "Luckily, this was the first work, and it would be a little while until he could race again."
"He cares so much about the horse that he hasn't called to asked about the horse's welfare in a year," Mansor said in response to Bakir's comments. "(Big Macher) is doing well. That's the main thing."
Baltas declined to comment on Big Macher's situation.
"The only thing I can say is that I told the owners he should be retired last year," the trainer said.
Big Macher, once a $20,000 claim in 2013, is Baltas' top earner for his entire training career. Along with the Bing Crosby victory, which was Baltas' first grade 1 win, the gelding won four other stakes, ran in two editions of the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1), and finished fifth in the 2015 Dubai Golden Shaheen Sponsored By Gulf News (G1). He has an 8-2-2 record from 20 starts and $744,288 in earnings.