05/02/2012 1:27PM

Churchill Downs: Talented trio hard to separate in Alysheba

Bob Coglianese
Mucho Macho Man comes into Friday's Alysheba riding a three-race winning streak that includes the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Mucho Macho Man, Nates Mineshaft, and Fort Larned are a combined 7 for 8 this year, having won virtually every significant race for older males in south Florida and Louisiana.

Friday, that trio will congregate at Churchill Downs for a sterling renewal of the Grade 2, $300,000 Alysheba Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. A field of 10 was entered, including Successful Dan and Apart, both graded stakes winners over this course and at the distance in the past.

Mucho Macho Man returns to the track over which he finished third in last year’s Kentucky Derby. After competing in the other two legs of the Triple Crown, Mucho Macho Man was given the summer off. Since returning to the races in the fall, he has won three straight, including the Sunshine Millions Classic and the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap, both at Gulfstream Park. In those races, he beat next-out Grade 1 winners Ron the Greek and Jackson Bend.

Trainer Kathy Ritvo shipped Mucho Macho Man to Churchill in time to get four workouts over the track.

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“He’s worked great here, he loves the racetrack,” Ritvo said. “I think this is the perfect race for him right now. He’s going very well into the race. He likes it here.”

Mucho Macho Man will break from post 4 under Ramon Dominguez outside of Nates Mineshaft, Successful Dan, and Fort Larned.

Nates Mineshaft has won his last four starts – all at Fair Grounds – including clear-cut victories in the Mineshaft and New Orleans handicaps. He won both of those starts in front-running fashion and will likely have to utilize that speed when he breaks from the rail on Friday under Jesse Campbell, who is in from Woodbine.

He has been training sensationally at the Churchill Downs trackside facility, prompting trainer Austin Smith to say, “you don’t have to call me for excuses. He’s going to run his race.”

The last time Successful Dan raced at Churchill Downs was Nov. 26, 2010, when he finished first in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap, but was disqualified to third for interference. He subsequently tore a suspensory, which kept him away from the races for 18 months. He returned with a one-length allowance win.

“I think he ran really good, maybe he got a little tired at the end,” trainer Charles Lopresti said. “Obviously, we hope he can come back at the same level.”

Fort Larned is 3 for 3 since trainer Ian Wilkes added blinkers to the colt’s equipment last fall. His most recent effort was a 2 1/2-length victory in the Grade 3 Skip Away at 1 3/16 miles on March 31.

“He’s just a different horse with blinkers,” Wilkes said. “It just clicked. It’s as simple as that.”

With the speed that Nates Mineshaft, Fort Larned, Plutonium, and Colizeo possess, the Alysheba could set up for a closer.

Apart won the William Donald Schaefer at Pimlico last May but has not run since finishing ninth in the Whitney last summer at Saratoga. Trainer Al Stall said the horse hadn’t had a meaningful break since he started his career in 2010.

“We wanted to give him a long time and have him ready for the second half of the season,” Stall said. “He’s really going great, training better than he did as a young horse. It’s a speedy bunch of horses. Maybe they’ll come back to him a little bit.”

– additional reporting by Byron King


Alysheba Stakes (G2), Post Time: 3:52 ET Friday

Purse: $300,000; 1 1/16 miles





ML Odds


Nates Mineshaft

A. Smith

J. Campbell



Successful Dan

C. Lopresti

J. Leparoux



Fort Larned

I. Wilkes

J. Castellano



Mucho Macho Man

K. Ritvo

R. Dominguez



Golden Yank

G. Thomas

R. Bejarano



Boxeuer des Rue

D. O'Neill

M. Gutierrez




A. Stall, Jr.

G. Gomez




J. Radesovich

R. Napravnik



Our Dark Knight

R. Moquett

C. Borel




T. Pletcher

J. Velazquez