02/28/2013 12:35PM

Mucho Macho Man will miss Gulfstream Park Handicap due to virus

Barbara D. Livingston
Mucho Macho Man will miss a planned start in the Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 9.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – The much anticipated rematch between Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man, the first- and second-place finishers in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, that was expected to take place in the Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 9 is off. That news came Thursday morning after the connections of Mucho Macho Man revealed their horse has a minor ailment that will prevent him from defending his title in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap.

“Mucho Macho Man has been diagnosed with a mild virus, and we will not enter him in the Gulfstream Park Handicap,” trainer Kathy Ritvo said Thursday.

Mucho Macho Man rallied to a two-length victory over Tackleberry in the 2012 Gulfstream Park Handicap. The win was the second at the meet for the son of Macho Uno who had also won the Sunshine Milions Classic earlier last winter.

Mucho Macho Man finished second, beaten a half-length by Fort Larned, following a thrilling stretch duel in the BC Classic. Mucho Macho Man launched his 2013 campaign in defense of his title in the Sunshine Millions Classic, only to be pulled up in early stretch by jockey Mike Smith as the 2-5 favorite in a race won over a sloppy track by Ron the Greek.

Mucho Macho Man bounced out of his poor showing in the Sunshine Millions Classic quickly and apparently none the worse for wear and had turned in a series of good works over the past several weeks in preparation for the Gulfstream Park Handicap.

Trainer Ian Wilkes has pointed Fort Larned to the one-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap ever since his arrival at the Palm Meadows training center early this winter. Fort Larned has been idle since the BC Classic.

A small but select field is anticipated for the Gulfstream Park Handicap and along with Fort Larned is expected to include Discreet Dancer and Fort Loudon. Grade 1 winner Take Charge Indy and Pants On Fire also are among the prominent names on the nomination list.