01/16/2014 3:12PM

Gulfstream Park: Mucho Macho Man stands out in Sunshine Millions Classic

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – It may not be a walkover, but it’s hard to make a case for anybody other than Mucho Macho Man winning Saturday’s $400,000 Florida Sunshine Millions Classic.

Of course, most bettors felt the same way about Mucho Macho Man coming into the 2013 Sunshine Millions Classic against a decidedly stronger field that included Ron the Greek and Fort Loudon. But his backers ultimately faced the harsh reality that anything can happen in a horse race, as Mucho Macho Man was eased at 2-5 when unable to handle the sloppy track.

Trainer Kathy Ritvo also learned a valuable lesson that day: Never run Mucho Macho Man on a wet racetrack again. Fortunately, it does not appear that she’ll have to make that decision Saturday, with the weather forecast calling for clear skies and a fast track for the Classic and the five other Sunshine Millions stakes that highlight an 11-race program.

The card serves as an enticing warm-up for the Eclipse Award festivities later Saturday evening at Gulfstream Park.

Mucho Macho Man has not started since outlasting Will Take Charge and Declaration of War to conclude his roller-coaster 2013 campaign with a nose win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November. The performance helped erase the memory of last year’s Sunshine Millions Classic for Ritvo. Mucho Macho Man had won the 2012 Sunshine Millions Classic, beating Ron the Greek by 1 1/2 lengths.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s like last year’s Sunshine Classic never happened,” Ritvo said. “But we did find out he doesn’t care for a wet racetrack, and better to have learned that lesson early in the year than later.”

[Sunshine Millions: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live]

Only five horses were entered against Mucho Macho Man in the 1 1/8-mile Classic, including his onetime nemesis, Gourmet Dinner, and the hard-knocking former claimer Bernie the Maestro. The field also includes the outsiders Decaf Again, Joshua’s Comprise, and Rule Number Six.

“Obviously, the field has come up a lot softer than it did when we ran in it the last two years,” Ritvo said. “We had to face Ron the Greek in both those races, along with several other top-caliber stakes horses. We weren’t really looking at who was in the race this year. We were just looking at this race as the perfect stepping-stone for wherever we might decide to run him next.”

Mucho Macho Man has trained extremely well for his much-anticipated 2014 debut.

“Fortunately, everything has gone smoothly for him since he’s returned from California,” Ritvo said. “He’s training well over a racetrack he really knows and likes. Our main goal at the moment is to get him back to the Breeders’ Cup as sharp as he was going into the race last year.”

Gary Stevens, who rode Mucho Macho Man to wins in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Grade 1 Awesome Again in 2013, will fly in from the West Coast to ride him Saturday.

“Gary’s only ridden him twice but knows the horse so well, it seems like he’s been riding him forever,” Ritvo said.

[Clocker Reports: Get Mike Welsch’s clocker reports from Gulfstream Park and Palm Meadows]

Mucho Macho Man will try to pull off a unique double Saturday by winning the Sunshine Millions Classic and an Eclipse Award several hours later as the top older male horse of 2013. He also is a finalist for Horse of the Year.

“It would be nice to win the race during the day and an Eclipse at night, but we’ll see what happens,” Ritvo said. “Our goal last year was to win the [Breeders’ Cup] Classic, not an Eclipse Award, although it would be great for him to be recognized by the voters for defeating the best horses in the best race of the year.”

Gourmet Dinner came out a length on top when he and Mucho Macho Man launched their careers in a maiden special weight race at Calder during the summer of 2010. He also finished in front of Mucho Macho Man when third the following winter in the Grade 3 Holy Bull.

Gourmet Dinner continued along the Kentucky Derby trail with a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth before nagging injuries forced him to the sidelines for the remainder of his 3-year-old campaign.

Gourmet Dinner held his form well for trainer Robert Triola during the second half of 2013, winning an allowance race at Parx Racing and finishing third on four other occasions, including in stakes on both turf and dirt at Delaware Park and Laurel.

Bernie the Maestro will try to rebound from a sixth-place finish as the favorite in the Claiming Crown Jewel here last month. Bernie the Maestro, whose owners and breeders, Ken and Sarah Ramsey, are up for a couple of Eclipse Awards themselves, won five of his 10 starts in 2013, including the Schaefer Memorial at Indiana Downs.

Jeanne Cooke More than 1 year ago
Misprint. her husband said she can't train a horse!!!!!!?
Jeanne Cooke More than 1 year ago
MMM could only beat Barry Rose's horses: non winners of three lifetime and a horse you could have claimed a few races back for $6,250. could not have not gotten a better field for $400,000. A course Kathy Ritvo's husband Tim Ritvo had something to do with that. Even her husband said she can train a horse.MMM could make any bad trainer look great!!!
B More than 1 year ago
I am cautious of this horse anywhere outside of Santa Anita, but it's hard to imagine him losing this today. It would be mighty embarrassing if he should.
jttf More than 1 year ago
why dont the california breds run against the florida breds anymore ? are they too tired of getting dominated ?
Quite A Dude More than 1 year ago
All the cal breds are in Arizona running for $3k....
Jd Staton More than 1 year ago
i dont understand why they would run the classic winner in a non graded fl bred race. seems like a slap in the face to the horse.if something goes wrong and he doesnt win they could at least say it was good horses that beat him if it were a graded race. the horses hes running in this race arent even stakes horses. the second choice ran in the claiming crown. pretty sad place to kick off the year
Mark More than 1 year ago
Same starting place as last year. Worked out just fine end of year. Classic Champ.
Ann More than 1 year ago
Did Tiznow go back to California and run in Cal-bred races after his 3yo win in the BC Classic? No, he ran in open graded races. But this is the modern style - after showing you can handle top-class open company, you come back and run in restricted company to up your win-score (looking at you, Zenyatta's folks). Doesn't help that Stronach's idiot brain-child the Sunshine Millions still has large purses without the intercoastal challenge aspect.
Mark More than 1 year ago
How about game in dude also ? His races in cali may have been graded but what a bunch of rats he beat up on out there. Also next start for mmm may be the world cup at meydan . How's that ? MMM is proven vs top here . He beat them last out and declaration of war. Also isn't great that he is racing at 6 at all ?
michael More than 1 year ago
Bring back the Magna 5. Stronachs bunch are clueless.
Hail No More than 1 year ago
It will look good on his Stud fee brochure, too.
ghost2_ More than 1 year ago
I really don't get why you're criticizing this plan. Plenty of truly GREAT horses have run in allowance races coming off of a layoff, after all. (I guess you'd probably complain about that too, but sometimes it's simply the best thing for the horse.) And the Sunshine Millions IS a stakes race, whether the field is very good or not. I don't think you know much about horse racing.
Jordan More than 1 year ago
I like Ritvo's honesty. She trained MMM to win the BC Classic and not an Eclipse award. And that's how his 2013 record reads, as the Classic winner, but not an Eclipse winner.
Jd Staton More than 1 year ago
oh well you can bet one thing the if MMM doesnt win a eclipse award the horse that beats him didnt win a 5 million dollar race in 2013 and thats what pays the bills and if wise dan or game on dude beat MMM for the eclipse thats all they will get because they will never go to stud and have the legacy live on. in the long run MMM beats them all
Shawn Britton More than 1 year ago
Mucho time saturday
ghost2_ More than 1 year ago
So what if Mucho Macho Man can go to stud? You think that makes him superior to geldings? I think not. I'm not a huge fan of Game On Dude, but he's had a very nice career so far (with who knows what to come), and Wise Dan is among the elite. MMM is a good horse, not in their class. He is also more likely to fail at stud than to succeed, since few studs reach an elite level. Are the legacies of Cigar, Kelso, Forego, and so many others tarnished just because they didn't sire any foals? I think not!
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
Oh Please. He dusted dude TWICE in the big dance. Don't you come on here and preach that he is not at their level.
ghost2_ More than 1 year ago
IMO, he's a cut below Game On Dude and at least two cuts below Wise Dan. He's still a nice horse, and yeah, he finished ahead of Dude in two Classics, but I think Dude is the better horse overall. How lovely of you to tell me I'm not entitled to my opinion, though.
michael More than 1 year ago
Let's not forget grandpa, Holy Bull.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
I'll take your bet on that, Jordan. Macho Man takes Older Horse...
Jordan More than 1 year ago
The reason MMM's running in this race is to hve him ready for the Big Cap, right? That was the plan before the debacle in the mud and subsequent training setbacks last year. The Big Cap will be at 10 furlongs and at MMM's favorite track. Otherwise, why start up so early on a horse that has difficulty stringing starts together?
Tony Ruiz More than 1 year ago
You heard it here. MMM will not win tomorrow. Ritvo cannot train a horse to a race. Beat on that.
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
Go f yourself. Last I checked....who is the female trainer to win the BC CLassic?.....ya that lady who couldn't train a horse up to a race.....That is who.
G More than 1 year ago
She is a bad lay off trainer. I am not saying he won't win tomorrow, but Rit o is poor off a lay off of over 40 days or more. Why is it people have to say things like go f yourself or others names anyway? We are all intitaled to an opinion.
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
Cry me a river.
Jojo Lisa Vergara More than 1 year ago
s...t up u dont know horse racing..
Tony Ruiz More than 1 year ago
Truth hurts...one of the worse trainers at calder...just imagine if a real trainer had that horse...but maybe that new heart of hers is from a real trainer....
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
Who ?....Baffert, D wayne?, Pletcher?, This horse wouldn't have made it to the track at 4.
jim lefferts More than 1 year ago
You couldn't be any more ignorant or wrong. Nice call.
Lefty More than 1 year ago
Mucho Macho Man doesn't really have any competition in this race. It's a shame that Kettle Corn has retired and Groupie Doll isn't entered. If they were MMM would be hearing footsteps or hoofsteps if you will coming from behind and then blowing on by! =P hehehehe!
G More than 1 year ago
Neither Kettle Corn or Groupie Doll could eneter even if connections wanted to. The race is only open to FL and CA bred horses. Its also non graded.
mooch More than 1 year ago
Where are they hiding the "Race of the Day" free PP's now a days ?