01/01/2015 2:47PM

Mucho Macho Man stepping-stone to bigger things


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – As one of the first major tests of the new year for 3-year-olds, the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man has spotlighted several significant players in the division since being introduced as the Gulfstream Park Derby three years ago. In fact, the first three winners of the event all fell just short of capturing the meet’s most prestigious race, the Grade 1 Florida Derby, with Reveron (2012) and Itsmyluckyday (2013) finishing second and General a Rod (2014) third.

Itsmyluckyday and General a Rod both went on to start in the Kentucky Derby, as did Wildcat Red, the runner-up in the 2014 Gulfstream Park Derby.

On Saturday, the one-mile Mucho Macho Man – named for the winner of the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic – will match nine 3-year-olds, one or more of whom could impact the division throughout the winter.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin enters 2015 with a stable full of potential Kentucky Derby candidates, including Mawthooq, who may go postward as the slight favorite in the Mucho Macho Man. Mawthooq finished second to Ready for Rye while debuting this fall at Belmont Park before returning to win his maiden by 10 1/2 lengths at Aqueduct going a mile Nov. 26.

Mawthooq went wire-to-wire under Cornelio Velasquez in his maiden win.

“He always trained well,” said McLaughlin. “He was a little keen early in his last race, but Cornelio did a nice job of slowing him down. He’s done everything right since that race. Ask me April 15 how we like him, but right now, we like him a lot.”

Juan and Bina, trained by Gustavo Delgado, also looks like a 3-year-old with a bright future. The son of Indian Charlie won at first asking going a mile at Gulfstream Park West. He then had the misfortune of running into the undefeated Mr. Jordan three weeks later in the Smooth Air Stakes, finishing second to him after getting involved in a speed duel.

Trainer Mike Maker sent out General a Rod to win this event last year and will try to defend his title with A. Rod Again, a lightly raced son of Awesome Again who won his maiden by 4 1/2 lengths at Churchill Downs in his second and most recent start.

Key contenders

Mawthooq (Beyers: 83-78)

◗ He races with Lasix for the first time. According to DRF Formulator, McLaughlin has won at 22 percent, with a return on investment of $2.19, over the past five years when giving his horses Lasix for the first time.

Juan and Bina (Beyers: 89-75)

◗ He owns the second-highest last-race Beyer in the field and the highest by far of any horse in the lineup around two turns.

A. Rod Again (Beyers: 71-62)

◗ Obviously improved with more distance and the switch to jockey Julien Leparoux in his second start, and he will turn back from two turns to one in the Mucho Macho Man.

◗ Maker and Leparoux have combined to win 21 percent of their starts over the past five years but with an ROI of just $1.55.

Bluegrass Singer (Last 3 Beyers 90-83-64)

◗ Owns the highest Beyer in the field for his impressive allowance victory earlier in the meet but must not bounce while returning on relatively short rest.

◗ Edgar Prado has given up the mount to ride Juan and Bina.