05/28/2011 2:19PM

Belmont Stakes: Mucho Macho Man gets new shoes

Tom Keyser
Mucho Macho Man lost shoes in both the Louisiana Derby and Preakness.

ELMONT, N.Y. - As well as Mucho Macho Man ran in the Louisiana Derby despite losing a left front shoe, it wasn't a trend his connections were hoping to set. So after Mucho Macho Man lost his right front shoe in the Preakness, trainer Kathy Ritvo felt she had to make a change.

So a few days after the Preakness, in which Mucho Macho Man finished sixth, Ritvo changed blacksmiths as well as style of shoes. If Mucho Macho Man does indeed make it to the starting gate for the June 11 Belmont Stakes - which is the plan - he will do so in a set of synthetic glue-on shoes designed by Curtis Burns, who is now the colt's new blacksmith.

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Burns, based in Wellington, Fla., flew to New York in the middle of last week, put the shoes on the horse on Thursday, and Mucho Macho Man returned to training Friday, when he jogged a mile over the Belmont training track. On Saturday, Mucho Macho Man galloped 1 1/2 miles over the training track.

"Hopefully, this does the trick," Ritvo said. "If anything does the trick, this is going to do the trick."

Burns describes his type of synthetic shoe as one that "has a wireless skeleton where it can be shaped very easily to fit the foot where most synthetics are not able to be shaped," Burns said.

"It's basically an extension of their foot," Burns added. "What it does is it flexes with the foot, so it's a little bit different feel for the horses. Sometimes, it takes them a little while to get used to them. It's almost like they're barefoot."

Burns said the specific shoes he put on Mucho Macho Man have a square toe that enables a horse "to get their feet out of the way a little easier when they're striding out. Stress reduction would probably be the best way of putting it."

Burns said several top horses have used his shoes with success. Burns said Curlin wore these polyflex shoes in the final three starts of his career in 2008 - winning the Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup before finishing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Burns said Indian Blessing also wore his shoes.

Mucho Macho Man was wearing glue-on shoes in the Preakness, but somehow - presumably early in the race - he dislodged his right front shoe. In the Louisiana Derby, Mucho Macho Man threw his left front shoe yet managed to finish third, beaten less than one length.

Ritvo believes that Mucho Macho Man's naturally long stride made it that his hind foot struck a front shoe and dislodged it. Ritvo is hoping that with these shoes that will alleviate the problem.

"I want him to keep his natural stride with assurances of keeping the shoe on," Ritvo said. "It's not a traditional hard shoe."

Burns said that he also put two new flat shoes on Mucho Macho Man's hind feet. Burns said the cost of those shoes were $500. Burns said he often thinks of something trainer Steve Asmussen, who uses Burns' shoes on a lot of his horses said.

"Yes, they're expensive," Burns recalled Asmussen saying, "but losing is far more expensive."