06/11/2017 4:47PM

Big Macher wins comeback in Thor's Echo

Benoit & Associates
The 7-year-old Big Macher returns from 18 months on the sidelines to win the Thor's Echo under Rafael Bejarano.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Big Macher made a triumphant return to the races Sunday at Santa Anita, where the veteran gelding won the $100,000 Thor’s Echo Handicap for California-bred sprinters while making his first start in 18 months.

 “I knew he’d run [well]. I didn’t know if he was ready to win,” trainer Richard Baltas said. “He had to run at the end, but I think he won on heart.”

 Big Macher and jockey Rafael Bejarano found a good position forwardly placed third on the outside. He rallied three wide into the lane, and wore down a stubborn K Thirty Eight to win the six-furlong race in 1:08.98. An early Beyer estimate would be in the low 90s.

 K Thirty Eight finished 6 1/4 lengths clear of third. The order of finish was completed by early pacesetter Got Even, He Will, and Gold Rush Dancer.

 The 7-year-old Big Macher is owned by Brendan Bakir and Tom Mansor, who claimed him for $20,000 from his debut at Del Mar in 2013. The gelding rose to the top of the sprint division in California, before he was sidelined with a suspensory injury in early 2016. His comeback race on Sunday was his first start since November 2015.

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 Big Macher has now won eight races and $744,288 from 20 starts. If all goes to plan, Big Macher will make his next start in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby, a six-furlong stakes at Del Mar on July 29 that he won in 2014. Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Drefong is expected to run in the Bing Crosby.

 The odds-on favorite, Big Macher paid $3.60.

 “I’m relieved,” Baltas said. “When you have a horse like this, and you bring him back, people say, ‘Oh, why is he running that horse.’ But I’m telling you, his legs are better than they have ever been.”

 And so is Big Macher’s heart.