07/07/2012 5:23PM

Belmont Park: Smith shocked by ease of Mucho Macho Man's Suburban score

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Barbara D. Livingston
Mucho Macho Man wins the Suburban by 2 1/2 lengths over Hymn Book.

ELMONT, N.Y. - As he walked back to the jockeys’ room following Saturday’s Grade 2 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park, jockey Mike Smith was equal parts ecstatic and shocked.

He was naturally happy that he won the $350,000 race aboard Mucho Macho Man, but he was stunned with the ease in which the 2 1/2-length victory was accomplished.

“I’m kind of shocked how impressed he was, you know,” said Smith, who was riding Mucho Macho Man for the first time. “You put that bunch in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, your favorite’s going to come out of that race.”

The way he ran Saturday, it might be Mucho Macho Man.

Stalking the pace-setting Trickmeister through six furlongs in 1:09.53, Mucho Macho Man made the lead turning into the stretch, then cruised to a 2 1/2-length victory over the late-running Hymn Book without feeling the leather of Smith’s whip. It was three lengths back to Trickmeister in third and another two lengths back to To Honor and Serve. Stay Thirsty, Buffum, and Endorsement completed the order of finish.

The final time for the 1 1/8 miles was a sharp 1:46.58. Mucho Macho Man returned $13.80 as the fourth choice.

“Believe me, he just ran them off their feet,” Smith said. “My horse was just better today - he really was.”

The win was the fourth from five starts for Mucho Macho Man since he returned to the races last fall after running in all three Triple Crown races last spring. It also enabled him to bounce back from a third-place finish in the Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 4.

“That horse, he comes to run every time,” winning trainer Kathy Ritvo said. “This horse loves to train, he loves to race, but now he knows how to win. Since we came back to Aqueduct [last fall] he gets it.”

One of the things that surprised Smith was how quick Mucho Macho Man was away from the gate. He actually broke on top, but was soon reined in by Smith to stalk Trickmeister before taking command turning for home.

“Every step was a winning one to be honest with you,” Smith said.

Ritvo, who trains the horse for Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, said she was not concerned with Mucho Macho Man’s proximity to the pace despite the rapid fractions.

“He was running so easy you could tell his stride - he’s got that big, long, huge stride and he still had horse left,” Ritvo said. “He ran fabulous today. I’m so proud of him.”

Hymn Book finished second in the Suburban for the second straight year. He stumbled at the start under Alan Garcia and despite making a run, he never threatened the winner.

“He stumbled leaving the gate and got out of position, it wasn’t anybody’s fault,” trainer Shug McGaughey said. “I don’t know why he did it. I had him over there and stood him the other day just so he wouldn’t break so hard. Where are you going to make up that much ground even though they were cooking.”