08/29/2012 3:09PM

Saratoga: Mucho Macho Man targets first Grade 1 win in Woodward Stakes

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Tom Keyser
Mucho Macho Man will try again for his first Grade 1 victory in Saturday's $750,000 Woodward Stakes.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – About the only thing missing from Mucho Macho Man’s résumé is a Grade 1 victory. He can take care of that while continuing to build a case to be considered for champion older male when he takes on six rivals in Saturday’s Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga.

The Woodward, run at 1 1/8 miles, tops a 12-race, near-six-hour extravaganza here Saturday that includes the Grade 1 Forego for male sprinters and the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap for males on the turf.

The Woodward will be Mucho Macho Man’s first start in a Grade 1 since he ran seventh in the Belmont Stakes almost 15 months ago. But in the restricted Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream, he beat Ron the Greek and Turbo Compressor – both of whom have come back to win Grade 1’s this year. He beat solid fields in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap and Grade 2 Suburban last month at Belmont.

“I think the last couple of races he ran in were close to Grade 1’s,” said Kathy Ritvo, trainer of Mucho Macho Man. “I think he’s still keeping with the right group of horses. It’ll be a good race.”

Since returning from the Triple Crown campaign of 2011 – he finished third in the Kentucky Derby – Mucho Macho Man has won 4 of 5 starts with his races spaced out from six to 10 weeks. His most impressive performance was his last, a 2 1/2-length victory in the Grade 2 Suburban at Belmont in which he ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:46.58. In the Suburban, he defeated Stay Thirsty and To Honor and Serve, who are both back in this field.

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Mucho Macho Man will break from post 3 under Mike Smith.

In the Suburban, Mucho Macho Man was second off Trickmeister, who set a rapid early pace. Trickmeister, who finished fifth in the Whitney, is back in this field as is the speedy Rule, who finished ninth in the Whitney. Ritvo said she’s not worried about how much speed may or may not be in the field.

“He has a very nice running style that I don’t think he gets himself into too much trouble,” Ritvo said of Mucho Macho Man.

Stay Thirsty and To Honor and Serve are both trying to regain the form that made them multiple graded stakes winners. Todd Pletcher, trainer of Stay Thirsty, and Bill Mott, trainer of To Honor and Serve, both believe the heat adversely affected their horses in the Suburban. That’s one reason those horses haven’t run since then.

“Obviously, we had a hot week leading up to it, all the horses were a little quiet, but I think he was exceptionally different in the paddock,” Mott said of To Honor and Serve.

Temperatures are expected to be in the low to mid-80s with low humidity Saturday.

Cease could be the wildcard in the Woodward. He is 3 for 3 at Saratoga, but has yet to win a graded stakes.

Gourmet Dinner, fourth in the Grade 3 Iselin at Monmouth on Aug. 18, completes the field.

The Woodward and the Forego will both be shown live during a one-hour broadcast on NBC beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern.