09/02/2001 11:00PM

Macho Uno cruises to a win


BENSALEM, Pa. - First, he displayed his studdish tendencies. Then, he flashed his championship form.

Macho Uno, in just his second start of the year, soared past Unbridled Elaine and Touch Tone in deep stretch with hardly any encouragement from jockey Gary Stevens to win Monday's Grade 3, $500,000 Pennsylvania Derby by 1 1/2 lengths. Unbridled Elaine, the first filly to run in the 23-year history of this race, finished second, a half-length ahead of pacesetting Touch Tone.

It was the first victory for Macho Uno since he edged Point Given in last November's Breeders' Cup Juvenile, a race that earned him the 2-year-old championship. And, before a Philadelphia Park crowd of 20,553 that included his owner, Frank Stronach, Macho Uno did it in such a fashion that makes one believe he will be a factor in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Belmont Park on Oct. 27.

For Macho Uno, the race was the easy part. It was his prerace behavior that may have given his backers some concern.

Considered a studdish horse by trainer Joe Orseno, Macho Uno displayed those tendencies when he spotted the filly, Unbridled Elaine, in the paddock. Orseno opted to saddle an excited Macho Uno on the walking ring.

After being saddled, Macho Uno acted up slightly and kicked an aluminum railing. Orseno said he glanced at Macho Uno's shoe and when he saw that it hadn't spread, the trainer relaxed.

Macho Uno was reluctant to load and needed three assistant starters to get him in the gate. But once the gates opened, Macho Uno - equipped with blinkers for the first time - was all business.

Stevens had a tight hold of Macho Uno in fourth position while Touch Tone, under Robby Albarado, set fractions of 23.98 seconds, 48.68, and 1:12.77 while being chased by Unbridled Elaine. Turning for home, Stevens guided Macho Uno into the three path, and without raising his stick, he cruised past the top two inside the eighth pole and drew clear. Macho Uno covered the nine furlongs in 1:49.69 and returned $3.80 to win.

"It was very, very easy," said Stevens, who picked up the mount when Jerry Bailey decided to stay in Saratoga. "When you're sitting 2 1/2 lengths off a pace like that, you're not supposed to run by them with ease like that."

Said Orseno, "Gary was riding him with a lot of confidence for a rider who had never been on him before. He did everything right. Everything indicates this horse is moving forward at the right time of year."

Orseno said he would point Macho Uno to the $300,000 Ohio Derby at Thistledown on Sept. 29, his final prep before the Breeders' Cup Classic.