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Updated on 09/04/2012 12:52PM
Saratoga: To Honor and Serve holds off Mucho Macho Man in Woodward
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - It was horses like the champion Royal Delta and To Honor and Serve that inspired Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott to go to the barn each morning this past winter in south Florida.
But as the year went along, To Honor and Serve had put in a couple of uninspiring performances, most recently in the Grade 2 Suburban at Belmont Park.
“I believed he could come back on the right day,” Mott said. “Today was a great day for him to come back.”
The day was Saturday and the race was the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga. After getting a perfect trip under John Velazquez, To Honor and Serve fended off a stretch challenge from Mucho Macho Man, the 4-5 favorite, to win the Woodward by a neck. Mucho Macho Man, who beat To Honor and Serve by 7 1/2 lengths in the Suburban on July 7, finished second by 2 3/4 lengths over Cease. He was followed in the order of finish by Trickmeister, Stay Thirsty, Rule, and Gourmet Dinner.
The win was the eighth from 15 starts for To Honor and Serve, a 4-year-old son of Bernardini owned by Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation. It was To Honor and Serve’s fifth graded stakes victory, and his second Grade 1. His first Grade 1 came in last year’s Cigar Mile at Aqueduct, his final start at age 3.
“After he won the Cigar Mile, I thought ‘Boy, we’re going to have some fun with him this year,’ ” Mott said.
To Honor and Serve won the Grade 3 Westchester to begin the year, but finished third as the favorite in the Metropolitan Handicap and fifth, also as the favorite, in the Suburban. Mott blamed traffic trouble in the Met Mile and 97-degree heat in the Suburban.
“We had our tails between our legs after the Suburban,” Mott said.
In the Woodward, Mott reunited To Honor and Serve with John Velazquez, who hadn’t ridden the horse in a year. Breaking well from post 6, To Honor and Serve took up a stalking position on the outside about 1 1/2 lengths off Rule, who was being pressed by Trickmeister through a half-mile in 47.45 seconds and six furlongs in 1:10.83.
Meanwhile, Mucho Macho Man, who was bumped out of the gate by 60-1 longshot Gourmet Dinner, was in fourth position under Mike Smith, inside of Stay Thirsty.
Approaching the quarter pole, Velazquez guided To Honor and Serve alongside Rule and they took the lead straightening away in the stretch. As he has been known to do, To Honor and Serve began to idle.
Turning for home, Smith guided Mucho Macho Macho outside of To Honor and Serve and the two were head-and-head from the eighth pole to the wire. Velazquez allowed To Honor and Serve to drift outward toward Mucho Macho Man, but the two never brushed.
To Honor and Serve covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.56 and returned $9.30 as the second betting choice.
“I got to the quarter pole without asking him to do anything,” Velazquez said. “He started waiting. When Mike came to the outside, he dug in really well. I was very proud of him that he put up a good fight.”
Smith said Gourmet Dinner kicked the starting gate before it opened and “it really messed my horse up.”
Smith said had he Mucho Macho Man not gotten bumped by Gourmet Dinner coming out of the gate he felt, he would have been where To Honor and Serve was early on.
“He had my trip,” Smith said of Velazquez.
Kathy Ritvo, the trainer of Mucho Macho Man, felt the start cost her horse the race.
“I just didn’t want to break that bad and give all the horses a couple of lengths,” Ritvo said. “But he ran a good race.”
Now that To Honor and Serve is back in form, Mott and Weber must decide whether to point for the Breeders’ Cup Classic or the Dirt Mile. To Honor and Serve finished seventh, beaten 3 1/2 lengths in last year’s Classic. He is expected to be retired at year’s end and will stand at Gainesway Farm in Kentucky.
“I’ve always said this horse is a terrific miler, whether we want to reach out and try the Classic - he got beat 3 1/2 lengths last year in the Classic basically as an immature 3-year-old - we’ll have to make that decision when the time comes.”
Lets put it this way, MMM although he was boxed(very common in any type of racing) was not extended at any part of the race till he found room to run & it was not that THnS was relaxing. MMM made up good ground easily and might have gotten his nose in front, thats when the real started and both horses ran well, THnS showed great guts & MMM ran all out, the difference was MS whipping or forcefully riding his horse & JV willed THnS with very strong handling.
It was an excellent race and fun to watch. The commentators at NBC did not seem all that into it, though. They seemed a little flat and tired in their analysis of the race. To Honor and Serve ran a very good race and it was nice to see him back on top again.. Johnny Velazquez gave him a great ride. Both Mr. Mott and Mr. Velazquez are on a roll and are both "in the zone" right now. Everything they touch seems to turn to gold. Mucho Macho Man ran a good race as well, he put in a nice battle with THAS, but fell a little short of victory. Horses cannot win all of the time, they are not machines. THAS and 3M have a fine little rivalry going on between them, this race just added to that cachet. Kathy Ritvo is a fine trainer and she has an affinity for 3M. She's done well by him as his trainer. Mike Smith is an excellent jockey and should not feel the need to explain himself after every race. He did not compile the record he has over the years by being a hack rider. It is not always the jockey's fault if a horse loses a race. Other factors go into it as well. Sometimes the horse isn't feeling it that day, or they don't like the surface of the track, or it's too hot, or the track is sloppy and the horse likes a fast track, or the horse is starting to feel ill. There are lots of reasons a horse loses a race. Mucho Macho Man will win lots of other races in the future, as will Mike Smith. If you don't have confidence in Mike Smith then don't bet him, or play him to win and place on a horse, or box your exotic tickets when he's on a horse you like. That way you have a better chance to make money. I hope Mr. Mott does not retire THAS. The horse is on the upswing and deserves to have his chance to thrive again. And scrappy, mighty little Jackson Bend. It's truly a miracle that he is alive this week. Two weeks ago he was run over by another horse in an accident and was laid out on the track, passed out and motionless, thought for dead. What a tought little character he is to have gotten up and just walked off the field, no damage done to him. Truly a miracle. It was my opinion before the race that after such an accident, Jackson Bend's connections should have passed on Jackson Bend running in this race, and I said so online in two different posts. His connections chose to run JB in the race. Jackson Bend showed a lot of courage in running in the race at all and giving it his all. I applaud him that he even tried to win the race at all, that he came in last place is of no consequence. Jackson Bend gets a mulligan from me for this race, so does Nick Zito. He wanted JB to defend his title and the owner was pushing to run in the race as well. Everyone makes mistakes, and NZ made a mistake in judgment in this case. Thankfully, Jackson Bend seems to have come out of this race without injury. It is my hope that they will let Jackson Bend rest for awhile and come back strong with him in 2013. Jackson Bend's connections should count their blessings that mighty little JB is still with us and healthy and still has that fighting spirit within him. Give him a little time to rest and recover fully. Jackson Bend will be back winning championship races again soon.
not easy to go up against the new york jockey mafia,they will box you in,bump you at the start anything to get one of their crew home,how about ramons patterned stiff rides when he puts the horse in every box he can find.usually a favorite for a smaller outfit in a pick 4 .
who retired? i dont see any info on this?
All in all i thought it was a great race. I kinda wonder though what the heck Zito was thinking running Jackson Bend back in 2 weeks after he was run over by another horse and lay motionless for 10 minutes on the ground. I am glad he's healthy but cmon Nick to run him back in 2 weeks and to say his blood works good....what the hell are you thinking. I really am losing respect for Zito more and more these days.
I always tell people that are somewhat new to the game that riding a horse is not like driving a car. All professional athletes make mistakes, whatever the sport. To call Mike Smith a bad rider is insane. Drosslemeyer won the classic because of his ride. What has that horse done since? Virtually nothing! To Honor and Serve is a very good horse but I agree that he has distance limitations.
Why would ANY Owner in their 'RIGHT MIND" pay to fly Mike Smith to the EAST Coast. Are they saying there's NO one BETTER in the EAST Coast. This is the guy that got the ONLY UNBEATABLE Horse in the World, beat, by a STUPID ride, he strikes again...
Why retire a 4yo when he just won a G1 stakes and appears to be just getting started! Hang on Bill, this beauty has a bright future. THaS beat MMM in a dogfight! Congrats to THaS and Johnny V. Great ride guys!
Why does everybody jump all over Mike? MMM got a bad break, was pinned inside until the 1/8 pole and still ran big. It's tough to keep a big striding horse behind horses then play catch up in the las few strides. Especially against Mott and Jv. THAS is a very nice colt. It's horse racing luck. could have gone either way with a cleaner break.
Another horrendous ride by Mike Smith. and he keeps getting good mounts. #overrated!!