07/08/2012 11:27AM

Belmont Park: Mucho Macho Man sets sights on Saratoga stakes after Suburban victory

Tom Keyser
Mucho Macho Man, with Mike Smith up, wins the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap by 2 1/2 lengths.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Mucho Macho Man came out of his authoritative victory in Saturday’s Grade 2 Suburban Handicap in good order and returned early Sunday morning to his base at Saratoga, where he will make his next start.

It remains to be seen, however, whether that next start will come in the Whitney on Aug. 4 or the Woodward on Sept. 1. Both races are Grade 1, $750,000 events run at 1 1/8 miles.

Though trainer Kathy Ritvo was non-committal Sunday morning, the way she and the Reeves Thoroughbred Racing partnership have managed Mucho Macho Man since last fall indicates the Woodward may be more likely than the Whitney.

Since returning to the races last November after competing in all three Triple Crown races last spring, Mucho Macho Man has had six to 10 weeks between starts. He has certainly thrived under that schedule, winning four of five races, including the Sunshine Millions Classic, the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap, and the Grade 2 Suburban.

“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. “He only worked three times up to his last race, but he never missed a day of training.”

Ritvo noted that Mucho Macho Man trains two miles every day.

In defeating Hymn Book by 2 1/2 lengths and running 1 1/8 miles in 1:46.58, Mucho Macho Man earned a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 108 for his Suburban score, which would be his career-best figure.

“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.”
Mucho Macho Man seemed to take a big step forward in the Suburban. Under Mike Smith, who was riding the horse for the first time, Mucho Macho Man attended a fast pace and still finished well without being touched by the whip.

“He had a really good day,” Ritvo said. “He acted good in the paddock, he was really good in the gate, he broke real well, and finished up great.”

Even if Mucho Macho Man skips the Whitney, that race – which is a Win and You’re In event for the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 3 at Santa Anita – is expected to come up extremely strong with the likes of Metropolitan Handicap winner Shackleford, Cornhusker winner Fort Larned, Alysheba winner Successful Dan, and his brother and stablemate Wise Dan – the Ben Ali winner – possibly joining the likes of Suburban second- through fifth-place finishers Hymn Book, Trickmeister, To Honor and Serve, and Stay Thirsty. Flat Out, second in Saturday’s Monmouth Cup and runner-up in last year’s Whitney, is another possibility.

On Sunday, trainer Charles Lopresti said he is “leaning toward” running Wise Dan and Successful Dan in the Whitney, but said that Wise Dan could possibly be re-routed to the turf now that Turallure is on the shelf for 60 days.

In two starts on turf last year, Wise Dan won the Grade 2 Firecracker at Churchill and was beaten less than two lengths by Gio Ponti in the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland.