Mucho Macho Man, who captured the $500,000 Florida Sunshine Millions Classic last season, will launch his 2013 season with a title defense on Jan. 19.
The showcase fixture of the six-race $1.3 million event for Florida-bred horses at Gulfstream Park will mark his first start of the year.
“We thought it was the ideal place to start,” said trainer Kathy Ritvo, who worked with Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s stable manager, Finn Green, on the decision to target the 1 1/8-race Classic.
The soon-to-be 5-year-old launched a highly successful 2012 campaign with a 1 ½-length triumph over Ron the Greek in 1 1/8-mile Classic. The son of Macho Uno went on to win the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) and Suburban Handicap (G2) at Belmont Park, before finishing a troubled second in the Woodward (G1) at Saratoga. He completed his season with a close second-place finish in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), in which he engaged Fort Larned during a thrilling stretch-long duel, only to fall a half-length short of victory.
“On Saturday morning, he’ll go three-eighths of a mile in preparation for the Sunshine Millions here on the 19th of January,” Green said. “It’s a great race to go back into after the Breeders’ Cup Classic, a fantastic race for him to get back.”
Mucho Macho Man, who picked up $900,000 for his stirring runner-up finish at Santa Anita on Nov. 3, has earned $2.3 million in purses while compiling an impressive resume that includes a third-place finish in the 2011 Kentucky Derby. He’s come painfully close, but he has yet to win a Grade 1 stakes. His connections had the option to bypass the Florida Sunshine Millions Classic in favor of the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 9.
“He’ll catch plenty of Grade 1s this year, but this is best race to go into after that race,” Green said.
The Florida Sunshine Millions will be conducted as a prelude to the 44th annual Eclipse Awards ceremony, which will be held for the first time at a racetrack on the evening of Jan. 19 in Gulfstream Park’s Sport of Kings facility.
Mucho Macho Man will prepare for his first start of the season with his first workout since his brilliant performance from his outside post position in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
“He’s done great. He’s come out of the race great,” Ritvo said. “He came out fantastic and he’s shown us all the right signs.”
Mucho Macho Man’s connections said they’ll take his 2013 campaign one race at a time.
“We have a plan, but we’re just going to start with this one,” Ritvo said.
Mucho Macho Man/NYRA photo