Mucho Macho Man drew much of the attention during Derby week, due to the backstory of his trainer, Kathy Ritvo.
The mother of two found herself with a real shot to win the Run for Roses after having had a life-saving heart transplant in 2008.
Mucho Macho Man didn’t quite get there, but didn’t disappoint, either, as he closed to third, a neck behind runner-up Nehro.
Now, Ritvo wants to run him in the Preakness in two weeks.
“He’s only going to get better, he’s only a June 15 foal,” Ritvo said. “He’ll come back, hopefully, in a couple weeks, if he comes back good and we’re ready to go.
“He was fabulous today. It went just the way we thought it would be. He gave it his all.”
“I had a great trip,” jockey Rajiv Maragh said. “My horse gave me a great feeling all around the race track. At every point in the race that I needed something, he gave it to me. He kept coming all the way through the wire. He ran an amazing race.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Mike Repole had hoped to have two Derby starters, but were left with one after the scratch of Uncle Mo on Friday.
Stablemate Stay Thirsty, the Gotham winner, finished 12th.
“I thought we had a real good trip,” Pletcher said. “He just didn’t have that big punch. We didn’t have any visible excuses.” . . .
Santa Anita Derby winner Midnight Interlude was attempting to become the first Derby winner without a start at 2 since Apollo in 1882.
Midnight Interlude was 16th.
“It wasn’t his day,” Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said. “Maybe the inexperience and the big crowd got to him.” . . .
The Irish horse, Master of Hounds, acquitted himself well in his first attempt on conventional dirt, finishing fifth under Garrett Gomez.
The UAE Derby runner-up had raced at Churchill Downs before a big crowd before, but it was on the grass, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last Novemeber.
“I really like him,” Gomez said. “It was a great run for his first time on dirt. We had a really good trip. Down the backstretch, they threw the airbrakes on and it cost us. We were at the mercy of the pace. I‘m looking forward to riding him in the Belmont Stakes.” . . .
The previous attendance record (163,628) was set in 1964, when the Derby celebrated its centennial. . . .
Mike Maker was the only trainer with two Derby starters, but could do no better than 13th (Derby Kitten). Twinspired was 17th.
Starlight Partners’ Hilda’s Passion set her typically torrid early fractions, with some pressure from Tidal Pool, but couldn’t hold off long shot Sassy Image in the Grade I Humana Distaff on the Derby undercard.
Sassy Image, second in the Adirondack and fourth in the Spinaway as a 2-year-old at Saratoga two years ago, went off at 16-1 and was a popular winner for the locals, as trainer Dale Romans and his brother, Jerry, the owner, are from Louisville.
She was ridden by Robby Albarado, who broke his nose on Wednesday when he was tossed before the third race at Churchill, and was subsequently taken off Team Valor’s Animal Kingdom.
His face banged up, with two black eyes and red bruises around his nose, he said, “To win any race today would’ve been great. [Team Valor managing partner] Barry
Irwin decided he didn’t think I was fit to ride. He didn’t know my status or situation. I’m just glad they thought of me first of all, and I’ll get plenty of opportunities to ride the Derby down the road. I’ll be happy to get on any horse Mr. Irwin or Mr. Graham Motion.
“Physically, I feel great. It’s more cosmetic than anything. Bruising doesn’t hurt.”
He wore a special protective shield instead of goggles during the race.
Sassy Image improved to 4-0-1 from five starts at Churchill, although the Humana Distaff was only her second career try at seven furlongs.
Hilda’s Passion is 4-2-0 from her last six, all stakes, starting with the Bennington at Saratoga.
She was coming off a track record for seven furlongs at Gulfstream Park, in the Inside Information. Hilda’s Passion set the pace through a quarter-mile in 22.29 and a half in 44.68.
“I was sort of surprised to see that eight [Tidal Pool] out there with her,” said Jack Wolf, Starlight co-managing partner with Don Lucarelli. “The eight broke real sharp, it looked like, and then she kept on going. But those fractions are not unusual for her. She wasn’t like she was at Gulfstream the last race, but what is that? Is it the track? I mean, she got beat, with some very fancy splits there. She got beat fair and square.”
Wolf said that seven furlongs is still well within her grasp, and in fact trainer Todd Pletcher has considered running her at a mile.
“I don’t think it was the seven furlongs, she just ran into a horse that was 3-for-4 here at Churchill, and likes the course,” Wolf said. “She’s Grade I-placed now, and we’ve got a couple Grade I’s between now and the Breeders’ Cup. You can’t win all these goofy things, you know?”
Get Stormy, winner of the Bernard Baruch and Fourstardave at Saratoga last year, took the lead out of the gate and never trailed to win the Grade I Woodford Redserve Turf Classic.
“If we were going to carve out a dream scenario, that was it,” trainer Tom Bush said.
“That’s the way it looked on paper, that we would be on the lead, and it worked out that way,” jockey Ramon Dominguez said.
Bill Mott-Kent Desormeaux proved to be a winning combination once again when British import Aviate, making her second start in the U.S., came from off the pace to win the Grade II Turf Mile.
“It was a good pace and just enough cut in the ground where the closers had a chance today,” Mott said.
Aikenite won his second straight Grade II for Dogwood Stable when he caught Apriority in a photo finish in the seven-furlong Churchill Downs.
Vinery Stables’ Regally Ransom got past Bridgetown to win the Grade III Twin Spires Turf Sprint by 11⁄4 lengths at five furlongs.