(Gulfstream Park notes)
After spending 2008 in Big Brown ’s shadow, West Point Thoroughbreds’ Macho Again is ready to step into the sun as one of the top choices in the $1 million OBS Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park Jan. 24.
The 4-year-old son of Macho Uno battled through a hardcore campaign last year, running the gauntlet to a second-place finish in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) and a victory in the Jim Dandy (gr. II) at Saratoga. He also endured a rough trip in the Travers Stakes (gr. I) where he finished eighth and had to settle for second in the Super Derby (gr. II) after traffic hampered his closing kick.
With eyes on the big purse in the Florida-bred/California-bred clash, trainer Dallas Stewart gave Macho Again a vacation. After a sixth-place tune-up on turf at the Fair Grounds Dec. 20, the plan is coming together nicely.
“After the Super Derby we took the Breeders’ Cup off the table and wanted to give him time to fill out, get his energy back and get his weight back,” said Stewart while holding Macho Again through a morning bath at Gulfstream. “He’s responded well.”
The loss in his seasonal debut in the Woodchopper Stakes has not daunted Stewart at all. The Mississippi native says it was necessary and can be completely discounted.
“We had to get him going again because we didn’t want to go into this race being his first start in four months,” he said. “There were no other options to run except on the turf. It did help get him focused and in the right competitive frame of mind.”
Stewart expects jockey Kent Desormeaux to guide Macho Again through his typical mid-pack trip, and that the colt’s prep race and training will insure all the rust from the layoff will be gone.
“It’s a competitive race and he’s going to be in the middle of it,” said Stewart. “He’s gotten more and more focused every day and we’ve been working him in company every time to get his competitive spirit built up. He’s been doing well and getting better and better.”
In other news, Livin the Dream Stable’s 3-year-old filly Dream Empress breezed a sharp three furlongs in :36 3/5 Jan. 23 at Palm Meadows as the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) runner-up posted her first workout of the year for trainer Ken McPeek.
The daughter of Bernstein won the Alcibiades Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland on Oct. 3 in her third career start before her excellent effort in the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita on Oct. 24 when beaten only 1 1/2 lengths by Stardom Bound, odds-on favorite to be acclaimed Eclipse champion of the division.
Dream Empress made one start after the Breeders’ Cup in the Golden Rod Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 29, finishing fourth as the favorite. McPeek has indicated that Dream Empress is on schedule for a possible return to competition in late February or early March.
McPeek also has another accomplished 3-year-old filly prospect in Steve Stan Stable’s Striking Dancer, who also posted her first workout of the year Jan. 23 at Palm Meadows, timed a half-mile in :48 2/5. The daughter of Smart Strike ran well in all four of her starts last year, breaking her maiden on turf at Churchill by 5 3/4 lengths on Nov. 1 and finishing second last out in the Caressing Stakes over the course on Nov. 29.