12/20/2008 1:00AM

Macho Again gets a prep for Millions


With the official Thoroughbred birthday less than two weeks away, the Woodchopper Stakes is about last call for a 3-year-old restricted stakes. But the Woodchopper is much less about what has happened so far at age 3 as what the connections of Macho Again hope their horse can accomplish soon after he turns 4.

Macho Again won the Grade 2 Jim Dandy, and would be a strong choice were the $60,000 Woodchopper contested on dirt. But this is a one-mile grass race, and Macho Again is prepping for a run in the $1 Million Sunshine Millions Classic early next year on the main track at Gulfstream Park.

"We want to get a good race in him," said trainer Dallas Stewart. "If he wins, great, but we'll keep our fingers crossed he has a good, safe trip and gets something out of it."

Racing fans should get plenty out of the 11-race Fair Grounds card Saturday. The program starts off tepidly, but picks up steam partway through, with five $60,000 stakes races on the menu. The Letellier for 2-year-old fillies drew a short field, but the other stakes all are solid.

Macho Again is by Macho Uno and out of a mare by Wild Again - nothing eye-popping in terms of turf pedigree. Not even his trainer has any strong feeling about how he'll handle grass.

"I don't have any idea," said Stewart. "I mean, he gets over the ground good, but he got over the Polytrack good, too, and he didn't run well on that."

True enough: Macho Again's worst race of the year was a seventh-place finish in the Lane's End at Turfway Park. Two lengths and one placing behind him that day was Turf War, who is scheduled to make his first start since the April 26 Derby Trial in the Woodchopper. Turf War was entered and scratched from a recent grass allowance, and, like Macho Again, never has raced on turf.

There appears to be plenty of pace in the Woodchopper, and two of the likely favorites, Jimmy Simms and Myboycharlie, could go head to head on the front end. Jimmy Simms set the pace and finished third, beaten less than a length, in the Grade 3 Commonwealth Turf on Nov. 9 at Churchill. Myboycharlie's most recent start, a 1 1/4-length Fair Grounds allowance win, was as impressive as his U.S. debut Oct. 13 at Hawthorne had been disastrous. Last of 12 sprinting on turf in Chicago, Myboycharlie led all the way in a third-level allowance race Dec. 5, a return to the form that made him a Grade 1 winner in France back in August 2007.