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Updated on 11/02/2013 9:16PM
Breeders' Cup Classic: Mucho Macho Man, Stevens win a thriller
ARCADIA, Calif. – A year ago, Gary Stevens was working in broadcasting for NBC. Six years ago, Kathy Ritvo was nearly dead, the victim of a failing heart.
On Saturday, in tandem, Stevens and Ritvo completed the comeback story of the year. Stevens, a Hall of Fame jockey who returned to riding early in the year, and Ritvo, able to follow her passion of training with a transplanted heart in her chest, won the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic with Mucho Macho Man, who survived a thrilling three-horse duel to the wire that captivated the crowd of 58,795 at Santa Anita.
Mucho Macho Man just did hold off the 3-year-old Will Take Charge to win by a nose, with the European invader Declaration of War, making his first start on dirt, right between them, only a head farther back in third.
Mucho Macho Man ($10), the second choice in the field of 11, completed 1 1/4 miles on the fast main track in 2:00.72
Fort Larned was fourth and was followed, in order, by Last Gunfighter, Palace Malice, Paynter, Flat Out, Game On Dude, Moreno, and Planteur. Ron the Greek was scratched on Thursday.
Game On Dude, the 8-5 favorite, failed in the Classic for the third straight year, finishing ninth, beaten 11 1/2 lengths, after attending the early pace while wide. He came up empty in the stretch with seemingly no excuse.
Game On Dude had not lost since finishing seventh in last year’s Classic and came into this year’s race having won six straight races, five this year, and as the front-runner for Horse of the Year. But his loss against the best field he faced this year throws Horse of the Year into debate. Wise Dan, the 2012 Horse of the Year, certainly enhanced his chances by winning the Mile on turf for the second straight year.
And now the older horse title is up for debate, with Game On Dude having dominated much of the year, but Mucho Macho Man having made a late-season bid and being far better in the only head-to-head match.
The Classic was the last of 14 Breeders’ Cup races run on Friday and Saturday. Unlike the Friday card, when the main track seemed to favor speed, the track on Saturday, though fast, seemed fair to all running styles.
Moreno, Fort Larned, and Game On Dude set off for the early lead and set fractions of 23.39 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 46.36 for a half-mile. Moreno was the first to yield, with Fort Larned surging to the lead through six furlongs in 1:10.23.
Stevens was able to get Mucho Macho Man – a big, long-striding horse – out into the middle of the track down the backstretch, and he set after the leaders with three furlongs to run, ranging up outside Fort Larned and Game On Dude.
Mucho Macho Man did not corner well into the home stretch. Fort Larned re-rallied to briefly take a narrow lead in upper stretch as Game On Dude faded, but Mucho Macho Man surged anew and took the lead for good.
Declaration of War, who settled smartly inside and behind the leaders, was tipped out for the stretch run and took aim at Mucho Macho Man, and then Will Take Charge came storming down the center of the track after getting fanned about six paths wide into the lane.
They came to the wire three abreast, and, though it was desperately close, Stevens rose in the saddle and thrust his whip in the air.
It was the most he used the whip. Stevens said he learned in a victory Sept. 28 in the Awesome Again – the first time he rode Mucho Macho Man – that the horse did not respond to being whipped.
“He’s a very intelligent horse,” Stevens said.
Mucho Macho Man finished second in last year’s Classic to Fort Larned. He came to Santa Anita in September to prepare for the Classic by prepping in the Awesome Again, which he won, and he remained here, turning in a strong, steady series of works for Ritvo.
Mucho Macho Man, owned by Reeves Thoroughbreds, has now won eight times in 23 starts. The $2,750,000 first prize money from the Classic was more than the $2,590,410 he had earned in his previous 22 starts combined.
Stevens, who also won the Distaff on Friday with Beholder, called the Classic win, his first in the race, “Sweet.”
“Maybe this all was meant to be,” Stevens said. “I mean, I thought it was going to happen, but I can’t believe it did happen.”
“This is retirement for me,” Stevens added. “Believe it or not, it’s a retirement check every month. I’m having fun.”
Ritvo, the first woman to train a Classic winner, said, “Like Gary said, I thought we’d be here. I don’t know how to feel.”
Game On Dude broke sharply, was in a good position into the far turn, but retreated.
“When the running started, he just didn’t have it,” said his trainer, Bob Baffert. “It’s been a great year, but I really expected him to win the race.”
It was a day of emotional highs and lows for Baffert. He won the Juvenile with New Year’s Day and the Sprint with Secret Circle, after having his filly Secret Compass suffer fatal injuries in the Juvenile Fillies.
John Velazquez was injured in the day’s first Breeders’ Cup race when Secret Compass went down. He needed surgery to remove his spleen. Just one of his subsequent mounts, Wise Dan, was a winner, with Jose Lezcano picking up the mount. Rafael Bejarano subbed for him on Palace Malice in the Classic.
Groupie Doll won the Filly and Mare Sprint for the second straight year, and Mizdirection repeated in the Turf Sprint, joining Wise Dan. Secret Circle, who won the now-discontinued Juvenile Sprint in 2011, captured the Sprint, becoming the third horse to win two different Breeders’ Cup races.
The Europeans, who won two races Friday, came back with two more Saturday, with Dank in the Filly and Mare Turf and Magician in the Turf, both ridden by Ryan Moore. And they nearly won a third in the Classic with Declaration of War.
Martin Garcia also rode two winners, New Year’s Day and Secret Circle. Stevens was denied a second winner on the day when She’s a Tiger was disqualified from victory in the Juvenile Fillies after bumping Ria Antonia in deep stretch.
“I tried not to let that get in my head the rest of the day,” Stevens said.
– additional reporting by David Grening
$2 exacta (6-10), $73
$1 trifecta (6-10-5), $304.40
$.10 super (6-10-5-7), $191.62
$.50 super high-5 (6-10-5-7-1), $8,813.50
$2 double (8-6), $19.20
$1 pick-3 (9-8-6), $37.80
$.50 pick-4 (11-9-8-6), $381.45
$2 pick-6 (6 of 6) (12-4-11-9-8-6), $47,156.20
$2 pick-6 (5 of 6) (12-4-11-9-8-6), $406.40
Sorry, off topic, Lankan Rupee just edges out Snitzerland down under, great race, Lankan Rupee, a 5-2 morning line shot goes off 8-1, after being as high as 11-1. Luke Nolen got it done!
Boy oh! Boy where did these beautiful owners come from it must in that southern water yonder in Alanta Georgia those words of how much thanking the fans just tell you how much class this operat those words of apreation mean a whole lot of love an Lots of love and respect for those beautiful post breederscup comment made by these owners of that amazing horse best of luck and may all your dreams come true enjoy this wild ride that is what this game needs more of classy people. God Bless and keep loving that special moment
muchu macho man gary stevens enuff said
Gary Stevens & Mike Smith are valuable to racing. They are probably better than they were 10 years ago. Should Mariano Rivera or David Ortiz have stopped playing baseball just because they are getting on in years? They are an example and role models for the newer jockeys. The baton will be passed in due time, just not yet.
For those saying WTC was pushed wide on the turn...yes he was , but MMM traveled in the 4-5 path, and 3-4 wide the whole way, while WTC sat in behind them comfortably. MMM ran the better race. He buried stalked Fort Larned and Game on Dud, and buried them after the turn. MMM is the top Handicap horse in N/A although Wise Dan will repeat at the Eclipse Awards for Older male/Turf/HOTY
I agree, Johnny V should walk away for a few. Too many bad things happening to him yet he will be able to walk away again after healing from this. Take some time off, live your life , enjoy some of your millions. You could always pull a "Stevens" down the road. I also would question what Gary has to prove by continuing racing. Hasn't he proven his point?. Leave it to the young , hungry jocks
Great win, great story and one of the most thrilling races of our time. As Tom Edison once said," life is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration" - kudos to both Gary Stevens and Kathy Ritvo for transforming Edison's quote into a real life event for all to witness. Don't ever think that a dedication to one's dream and a tenacious persistence to achieve it doesn't work. If you doubt those words of truth just watch the replay of Mucho's race a few more times and eventually you'll get it.
Just a few random thoughts from a sleep deprived (depraved) mind. How to survive two day party & cap 23 difficult races legally - chew Kodiak and drink plenty of iced-down Pepsi. Your penmanship may be a wee bit shaky but you will get thru it. HoY ?-not Game on Dude as he ran like a Princess of Sylmar, LoL. There is no Joy in Nicholasville for the mighty Kittens have struck out. On a related note BC handle was up 6.8%. Has anyone spotted Ramsey's fat derriere? I heard he lost it. Was that a Mexican jumping bean or a jock on Declaration of War? Johnny V., wishing you a quick return to good health. Your family needs you more than you need racing.
Give credit to the connections of GOD for not defecting from the Classic for an easier opportunity. Maybe from now on they might play it wise like Wise Dan
Hopefully, yesterday will silence the California-racing detractors and SA haters. The BC is supposed to be a showcase for the best racing has to offer, not just to everyday handicappers, but to the entire world. The world was treated to extraordinary racing in an incredible setting, with thousands of people on-site who actually seemed to be having fun on a beautiful day. A far cry from BC venues in the east where more than occasionally viewers have to watch the best horses in the world slog through the rainy slop of a cold, dreary and darkening sky. Track bias? Please. Every race track has some degree of bias which modulates within a normal range each day depending on factors such as temperature, humidity, and the time of day. SA's normal main track "bias" results in many winners coming from the pace or just off it. Whether that means that the track allows the "best" horse to lose a race because of its come-from-behind style, or simply means that well meant frontrunners are not unfairly penalized by a deep and tiring strip, will continue to be debated. But, what's clear about Friday and Saturday is that (1) Goldenscents won the Mile because he was the best and fastest horse, and (2) horses won on the main track yesterday regardless of running style. (And please, I don't want to hear the "conspiracy theorists" tell us that the SA grounds crew altered the surface Friday night). Let's face it, our beautiful sport is dying a slow death. I'm not sure that having the BC at SA every year can save it, but it wouldn't surprise me if people who never thought about going to a horse race, having watched the Classic last night, might just say "I'd like to be there next year."