Suffolk Downs Race Report: He's the One

Suffolk Downs Race Report: He's the One
Photo: Bill Denver/ Equi-Photo
Macho Uno, shown winning the Pennsylvania Derby, won the MassCap Saturday at Suffolk Downs.
Published in the June 8 issue of The Blood-Horse
How fitting that Macho Uno's half-brother is named Awesome Again. That is exactly how the roan 4-year-old colt looked in winning the $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap (gr.II) on June 1, despite encountering as much traffic trouble in the Suffolk Downs' stretch as most Boston commuters face on a daily basis with the Big Dig.

However, once Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens extricated Macho Uno from his predicament behind a wall of four horses at the furlong pole, he showed power and acceleration not seen too often. Macho Uno, owned by Frank Stronach, won by 1 3/4 lengths as the 2-1 second choice behind defending champion Include (3-2), in the process convincing the 16,361 on hand he has regained the form which allowed him to defeat Point Given for the juvenile championship in 2000.

Trainer Joe Orseno's colt was given time off from November of that year until last July because veterinarian Larry Bramlage felt he was growing too quickly for his body, compromising his hind ankles. It was evident in the MassCap that Stronach and Orseno's patience was justified.

"It was just a little immaturity," explained Orseno just outside the Suffolk jockeys' room following the victory in the 63rd running of the MassCap. "We sent him to Dr. Bramlage, who felt that Macho Uno was growing too fast for his own good and needed time to develop. I've seen it before in horses but because it was Macho Uno, it was publicized. Horses get rest all the time. You never even hear about it. But this is a good horse, so everytime he does something people want to know. He proved today he's well over that."

Stronach concurred. "We always thought he was a very nice horse and once we get a nice horse...all horses have some problems and if you push them too much, they fall by the wayside. So we gave him some time. I think he should run some good races this year.

"Mongoose and Include are two nice horses," continued Stronach, whose discussions to lease Suffolk Downs are ongoing. "It's the way he won. That's what's impressive. If he had a clear trip and won by three or four lengths, you would have to say he beat some nice horses. But I think this was a special performance."

Evening Attire, owned by Mary and Joseph Grant of Quincy, Mass., and former trainer T.J. Kelly, and trained by Kelly's son Patrick, was last of nine early. However, over a speed-favoring track he was able to rally and finish second at 5-1. Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan claimed foul against the winner for a bump when Stevens had no choice but to tip four-wide to find racing room in deep stretch. The foul was disallowed. Include finished third. The final time was 1:50.52 for the nine furlongs. The Stronach camp picked up $300,000 for their efforts.

Stevens commented on Bridgmohan's objection. "He had to do it. It's a $500,000 race. He was taking a shot. But I eased out with Macho Uno very gracefully. I tightened up on Shaun a little bit, but not enough to change the outcome. The objection took a little longer to decide (five minutes) than I thought it should have, but they have to take a look at it for that kind of money."

Stevens, who won the Pennsylvania Derby (gr.III) aboard the colt last year, was as impressed with this push-button horse as were the owner and trainer.

"Had I known what I was going to be sitting on today," said Stevens, "I would have been sitting second with him around the first turn, rather than fourth. He broke alertly but was very relaxed. As sharp as he was, Joe (Orseno) thought he might be a little rank and didn't want me to get into a speed duel. I had a great trip until I found myself in a pocket, loaded to kill, coming into the stretch. I didn't have any room and tried to split horses (John Little and Mongoose) and was stopped cold at the eighth pole. At that time I thought I was hopelessly beaten. Then I eased him outside and he just rebroke. From then on it was just a matter of how far. I was tremendously impressed."

Stevens was asked about the maturation process of Macho Uno from his fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) last October behind Tiznow, Sakhee, and Albert The Great.

"Macho Uno's not the same horse as last year," said the jockey. "He's not even in the same league now. He's a much stronger individual; so powerful. He had a tendency to get a little hot last year. He'd want things his own way warming up. You had to kind of finesse him and baby him along. Today he was like a professional saddle horse in the parade. I could have put my 10-year-old daughter on him, that's how professional he was warming up. I don't want to hex him, but I told Mr. Stronach that he could be Horse of the Year. The way he is right now, he doesn't even have to improve. If he stays where he is, he'll be a force to be reckoned with all year long."

All About Pace
The key issue going into the MassCap was who would set the pace? Mongoose, winner of the Donn Handicap (gr. I) this winter at Gulfstream Park for trainer H. James Bond after owners Gary and Mary West transferred the son of Broad Brush from Bill Mott's barn, has good tactical speed but prefers a target to chase. After that, it was anybody's guess.

Heading into the clubhouse turn, it was a four-way scrum for the lead among longshot local Soes Bandit, Griffinite, Mongoose, and John Little.

Griffinite won the initial battle, with Mongoose tracking in realistic fractions of :23.06, :46.46, and a realistic 1:10.67 for the first six furlongs.

At the top of the stretch, Mongoose, Griffinite, John Little, and Include were four across the track, with Include putting a short head in front, as if he were to become the sixth horse to win multiple MassCaps.

Stevens and Macho Uno had other ideas, but were blocked behind the front-runners. At the three-sixteenths pole, it appeared a seam was opening for Stevens, but John Little quickly closed the aperture, forcing Macho Uno to steady sharply, at which point Stevens had no choice but to muscle his mount to the outside of the tiring leaders, into the path of Evening Attire.

What was going through Orseno's mind at this juncture, knowing Stevens still had a ton of horse at his disposal?

"You know, I ran one earlier in the day that got in a lot of trouble (Stronach's Southland Blues, second to Stormin Oedy in the $150,000 James Moseley Handicap), and I thought, 'this can't happen again,' but it did," Orseno said. "Macho just proved today that he's an exceptional racehorse. He was stopped dead at the eighth pole and it's really hard to chase down good horses doing that. He was much, much better and he proved it today. Gary (Stevens) said something to me about bringing a cannon to a gunfight. He was very impressed with the acceleration and turn of foot Macho Uno showed from the furlong pole to the wire."

Continued...

(Chart, Equibase)

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