07/09/2012 4:36PM

Belmont: Mott may go three deep in Whitney

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Ron the Greek is among three older horses trainer Bill Mott could run in the Whitney at Sarataoga.

ELMONT, N.Y. – If the connections of Suburban Handicap winner Mucho Macho Man continue to manage their colt as they have thus far, it would appear that he is more likely to run in the Woodward at Saratoga on Sept. 1 than the Whitney at Saratoga on Aug. 4. Both races are worth $750,000 and run at 1 1/8 miles.

Even if that turns out to be the case, the Whitney will not be lacking for quality or quantity.

Trainer Bill Mott said Monday he would nominate a trio of Grade 1 stakes winners to the Whitney, and since there are virtually no other legitimate dirt options at that time, it’s not out of the question he would run Ron the Greek, Flat Out, and To Honor and Serve in the Whitney.

“I’m not really overthinking it,” Mott said at Belmont Monday morning after Ron the Greek worked four furlongs in 49 seconds over the training track. “I’ll nominate Flat Out, Ron the Greek, and To Honor and Serve and I hope I have one of them ready to run by then. And if they’re all ready, all three might run.

“You’d think a guy could manage things better than that but I don’t know where else you’d go.”

There is a dearth of graded stakes on dirt in the handicap division. The Grade 3, $150,000 Philip Iselin at Monmouth on Aug. 18 appears to be the only other graded option over the next seven weeks.

Though it might not include Mucho Macho Man or Hollywood Gold Cup winner Game On Dude, the Whitney field could still come up strong. In addition to the Mott trio, others under consideration include Metropolitan Handicap winner Shackleford; graded-stakes-winning brothers Wise Dan and Successful Dan; Monmouth Cup winner Rule; Cornhusker Handicap winner Fort Larned; and Grade 1 winners Hymn Book and Stay Thirsty as well as Suburban third-place finisher Trickmeister.

Mott was disappointed with To Honor and Serve’s fourth-place finish as the favorite in last Saturday’s Suburban, and is hoping the hot conditions were to blame.

“I don’t think he acted right in the paddock,” Mott said. “He was a little agitated.”

Conversely, Mott was happy with the return of Flat Out, who was beaten 1 1/2 lengths by Rule – also coming back off a lengthy layoff – in Saturday’s Grade 2 Monmouth Cup at Monmouth Park. Flat Out finished second in the Whitney last year.

“No reason not to train him in that direction,” Mott said. “That was a good race the other day.”

Flat Out was caught behind a slow pace and bottled in down the backside. Rule had first run on him and held Flat Out at bay in the stretch.
Trainer Todd Pletcher said Rule would be under consideration for the Whitney. Pletcher also said Stay Thirsty, fifth in the Suburban, would point to the Whitney as well. Pletcher said Stay Thirsty didn’t respond well to the heat and was to ship to Saratoga on Tuesday to begin preparing for the Whitney. Stay Thirsty won the Jim Dandy and Travers last summer at Saratoga.

Trainer Charles Lopresti said Successful Dan and Wise Dan were to ship from Kentucky to Saratoga this weekend. Successful Dan, who won the Grade 3 Alysheba over subsequent stakes winners Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man, is a definite for the Whitney. Wise Dan, who won the Ben Ali and was second in the Stephen Foster, is probable, though he could be re-routed to the turf in the Fourstardave on Aug. 11.

Meanwhile, Mucho Macho Man returned to Saratoga on Sunday morning following his impressive 2 1/2-length victory in the Suburban. Under Mike Smith, Mucho Macho Man attended a strong early pace and still finished very well. He ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:46.58 and earned a career-best 108 Beyer Speed Figure.

It was his fourth win from five starts since returning from a five-month layoff last fall. Mucho Macho Man has had six to 10 weeks between races since returning to the races. It’s only four weeks to the Whitney, but eight weeks to the Woodward.

“He’s a big horse and we allow him to recover on his own, and he seems to do real good that way,” Ritvo said Sunday.

Ritvo and the Reeves Thoroughbred Racing partnership which owns the horse have demonstrated tremendous patience with Mucho Macho Man and it has paid off with victories against strong fields in the Sunshine Millions Classic, Gulfstream Park Handicap, and Suburban.

“We always thought that he belonged with the best horses. We just decided to take it easy getting there,” Ritvo said. “One step at a time.”