01/14/2017 6:30PM

Tommy Macho regains good form in Hal's Hope

Barbara D. Livingston
Tommy Macho, the lukewarm favorite under Luis Saez, overcomes clipping heels with a rival to romp by 5 3/4 lengths in the Hal's Hope.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -  Tommy Macho left little doubt that he’s back in top form after overcoming trouble en route to a resounding 5 3/4-length victory over Bird Song in the Grade 3 Hal’s Hope on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

Tommy Macho went to the sidelines due to a knee injury shortly after a similarly impressive victory here 11 months ago in the Grade 3 Fred Hooper. The one-mile Hal’s Hope was his third start on the comeback trail following disappointing efforts in both the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap and nine-furlong Richard W. Small at Laurel to close out his 2016 campaign.

Tommy Macho was kept within easy striking distance of the early leaders by jockey Luis Saez while racing between horses, before dropping farther back after appearing to clip heels midway on the second bend. But once recovering, Tommy Macho overpowered the field, readily running down Bird Song near the eighth pole before drawing away with complete authority. Bird Song, who prompted the early pace set by Dolphus, proved no match for the winner but remained second- best, finishing 1 1/2 lengths in front of Realm.

Tommy Macho, a 5-year-old son of Macho Uno owned by the partnership of Paul Pompa Jr. and J Stables LLC, paid $7.40 as the tepid favorite in a field of nine older horses. His final time for the mile was 1:35.20  on a fast track.

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“Kind of hard to read the Kelso off the long layoff and Anchor Down running so fast that day,” said Pletcher. “Then we stretched him out to a mile and one eighth and maybe he wasn’t ready for that. We’ve been pointing for this since then, seems like he really likes Gulfstream and a one-turn mile here. I was worried a little early on he was between horses and never really able to get comfortable, then he clipped heels but then after he did that, he got up, Luis shook him up and he really fired from there.”

Pletcher said the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap, also at a mile, would be the logical spot for Tommy Macho’s next start here on Feb. 11.