03/08/2011 12:58AM

Mucho Macho Man...and the other Uncle


When Uncle Mo cruised to a 14 ¼-length victory in his maiden last August at Saratoga, I felt a little sorry for Dean and Patti Reeves.  They aren't connected to Uncle Mo, nor are they the type who would generally inspire - or want - sympathy.  They are unusually genial, humble, stylish and successful.  

It’s just that the fledgling owners, who bought their first racehorse in 2007, had five horses in training last summer -  and one was a 2-year-old named Uncle Joe. A month before Uncle Mo turned heads, Uncle Joe ran in a maiden race at the Spa. The light grey turned a head or two himself when he literally leapt from the starting gate that day. He finished sixth. 

Uncle Joe's page on the Reeves Thoroughbred Racing website reads: We named this horse "Uncle Joe" after Dean's 94-year-old Uncle Joseph Reeves (Retired Lt. Col Army) who resides on his ranch in Pipe Creek, Texas. Uncle Joe was a fine horseman during his days in the Army, and they found it only fitting to name this special racehorse after one of their family's greatest and most special men.  

You have to root for a horse named for such a man, although, a half-year after his inauspicious start, Uncle Joe is still a maiden. The 3-year-old's most recent race came at Gulfstream on February 19.  He ran ninth.

Above:  Top row - Uncle Joe at Saratoga, Rajiv Maragh up, 7/29/10.  Second row - at trainer Angel Penna, Jr.'s barn, summer 2010

Meanwhile, last summer, as Joe leapt and Mo cruised, another of the Reeves’ racehorses was finding his stride. Dean picked this one out in July - while watching a Calder race on TV. They purchased a majority share in the 2-year-old, and the unusually long-faced bay, with a slim streak of white down his face, soon ran third at Saratoga for trainer Tim Ritvo. The following month, he broke his maiden at Monmouth. 

While few noticed Mucho Macho Man’s victory that September afternoon for owners Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Dream Team Racing, they’re sure noticing him now. 

Above:  Mucho Macho Man at Saratoga, Garrett Gomez up, 8-21-10 - the winner was Curlinello (chestnut w/ yellow-green silks)

Nowadays, Tim’s wife Kathy trains Mucho Macho Man.  The colt, recent winner of the Risen Star, is known by nicknames ranging from Mucho to Macho to MMM to M3 - and his fans follow his moves via his Facebook page.

Although Kathy always keeps an attentive watch, she allows Macho some leeway in his training. Some mornings, it’s a gallop, and then there's the occasional workout. And sometimes his exercise rider takes him for a jog the wrong way, a time or two around, before they determine if more is needed that day. The horse speaks volumes to Kathy through his actions, and he's quietly rewarding her faith and focus.

Above:  Mucho Macho Man in training at Gulfstream, February 2011 - including with exercise rider Michael Heerra up and with trainer Kathy Ritvo

Kathy loves her family, animals, and life itself, and she perhaps has reason to value them more than others might. Her health struggles – she had a heart transplant late 2008 – are becoming well documented (http://www.drf.com/news/kathy-ritvo-tough-they-come). Her attitude is determined, youthful, uplifting, common sense. One gets the feeling that having a heart transplant just might teach a person not to take small, everyday problems all that seriously.

And speaking of small... The Ritvo barn has what some might call a barn mascot.  From the shedrow, Kathy can simply call out, “Roxy!,” and a miniature horse immediately pops out from a shelter next to the barn. Some may remember Roxy from her days at trainer John Parisella’s barn. While the shelter and paddock are tiny, they're more than ample for her.  The diminutive lass is quite bold, although one gets the feeling her instant response to Kathy’s voice might, just possibly, be due to an occasional edible reward.

Mucho Macho Man stands tall among racehorses – 17 hands – and his long-striding style should continue to suit him well. While he can still act like a youngster - he's a June 15th foal, after all, who won't actually turn 3 until after the Belmont - he’s been polite whenever I’ve aimed a camera his way. The lanky bay will soon flash his long stride again, this time in the March 26 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds.  

A matchup between the uncles, Joe and Mo, seems highly unlikely.  But it's a solid bet Mucho Macho Man will face Uncle Mo soon - most likely in the Kentucky Derby.  For Macho's fledgling owners, Dean and Patti Reeves, it doesn't get much better than that.

Above:  Mucho Macho Man says hi to Roxy - and vice versa - at trainer Kathy Ritvo's Gulfstream barn, February 2011 

For more about Dean and Patti Reeves, and the purchase of Mucho Macho Man: