Florida-bred Mucho Macho Man proudly carried the Sunshine State’s banner to a thrilling victory in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Saturday at Santa Anita.
With Gary Stevens in the irons, Mucho Macho Man rated off the early pace in fourth. He ranged up menacingly five-wide outside race favorite Game on Dude around the far turn, and without even being asked for his best, assumed command at the head of the lane. Once set down in the drive, he kicked a length clear with Declaration of War and Will Take Charge in pursuit.
In a thrilling and desperate finish, Mucho Macho Man hit the wire a nose in front of Will Take Charge to prevail in front of an on-track crowd of 58,795. Mucho Macho Man covered the 1 ¼ miles in 2:00.72. Declaration of War finished a strong third just a head behind Will Take Charge. Game on Dude faltered in the lane and wound up ninth under jockey Mike Smith.
“This was a tremendous experience to win this race at my age (50),” said Stevens. “I never expected to be in this situation. This is the ultimate feeling. It’s the icing on the cake of my career.
“The race was a mile‑and‑a‑quarter, and not a mile‑and‑a‑quarter and a stride, so it was perfect,” Stevens added. “Had I known it was that close, I probably wouldn’t have celebrated. But we’re not wrong very often. He had his head down. He was fully stretched out, and just a tremendous training job by Kathy and a tremendous effort from a great, great horse.”
Jockey Luis Saez, aboard Will Take Charge, said of his runner-up finish: “We had a good trip. Every time I ride this horse he’s always very steady early in the race. When you turn for home, he’s a totally different horse. In the stretch, the 8 horse (Palace Malice) drifted out a bit and that forced me even wider and yes, it probably cost me the race.”
Mucho Macho Man’s Breeders’ Cup Classic victory proved historic. It was the first Classic win for Stevens, and trainer Kathy Ritvo, a heart transplant recipient, became the first woman in history to saddle a Classic winner.
“I’m happier for my horse,” said Ritvo. “He deserves it. When (jockey) Gary (Stevens) waved the stick, I figured he won. He got a great trip. Gary did a fantastic job. When he used ‘Macho,’ ‘Macho’ showed up. He is a good horse. I’m excited. If I didn’t have the support of my family, I wouldn’t be here.”
Second to Fort Larned in last year’s Classic, Mucho Macho Man is owned by Dean and Patti Reeves’ Reeves Thoroughbred Racing. John and Carole Rio bred the son of Macho Uno–Ponche de Leona, by Ponche in Florida.
Breeders’ Cup photo