When the Met Mile was run May 28 with a stellar field of older horses, there was no stealing the spotlight from I’ll Have Another and the Triple Crown possibilities.
It may be a little easier today.
The older division will light up the 127th running of the Grade II $350,000 Suburban at Belmont Park, grabbing a little bit of the attention back from the 3-year-olds in the 11⁄8-mile race.
“I think it does,” said Kathy Ritvo, trainer of Mucho Macho Man. “I thought that even in the Alysheba. That was a tough race, and this is going to be a very good race, too. And I loved the Met Mile. I think it’s very competitive between these older horses.”
Mucho Macho Man was third in the Grade II Alysheba his last time out, finishing behind the victorious Successful Dan and Fort Larned.
He is the third choice, 4-1 on the morning line.
The 9-5 favorite is To Honor and Serve, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, coming off his third-place finish in the Met Mile behind Shackleford and Caleb’s Posse, Shackleford prevailing by a nose. To Honor and Serve won his previous two starts — the Cigar Mile last November and the Grade III Westchester at Belmont in April.
“He’s extremely good at a mile, but he’s classy enough to get 11⁄8 miles,” Mott told the New York Racing Association. “In the Met Mile, I think he was extremely compromised by his post position and — not to take anything away from the first two finishers — didn’t have the smoothest of trips.”
He ran a career-best 109 Beyer Speed Figure in the Met Mile.
The Suburban will try to make as big a splash, or bigger, with another great lineup of older horses.
Stay Thirsty, winner of the Jim Dandy and Travers last year, and 7-year-old Caixa Eletronica make up the second-choice coupled entry for Todd Pletcher. Caixa Eletronica won the Grade II True North his last time out and the Grade II Charles Town Classic three races back, those two races sandwiching a fourth-place finish in the Met Mile.
Mucho Macho Man’s last three published workouts have been sharp, breezing four furlongs at Belmont in 46.75 June 15, then in 48.05 at Saratoga June 23 — fastest of 37. His last work at Saratoga before heading to Belmont was a five-furlong breeze in 58.21.
“He really has [come to work],” Ritvo said. “He’s done really well up here in Saratoga, and he’s ready to run.”
Mucho Macho Man was one of just two horses, along with Animal Kingdom, to run all three Triple Crown races last summer.
He was given some time off after the Belmont before coming back to win an allowance at Aqueduct in November to end the year.
“We gave him some time, but it was going to be time he needed, anyway, because he’s a very late foal — June 15,” Ritvo said. “And he’s a big horse. So it was really nothing special. He did need the time, but he came out of that time off amazing. He came back with that allowance win at Aqueduct, then we went home to Florida and he won two very good races there.
“When you bring that horse to the races, he shows up ready to run. He loves what he does. He loves to train, and he loves to run.
Being such a big horse, we’ve found he likes it better when we space his races out, because he can fully recover and give his 100 percent again when he runs.”
Those wins were in the Sunshine Millions Classic, in which he beat Ron the Greek by 11⁄2 lengths, and the Grade II Gulfstream Park Handicap, which included Jackson Bend.
The wins were followed by his third in the Alysheba, as Ritvo said, in great company.
Ramon Dominguez took the ride for last year’s Belmont, finishing seventh aboard Mucho Macho Man after an early bump. He also was up for the subsequent three wins and the third in the Alysheba.
Dominguez, however, is committed to Trickmeister today. Trickmeister is 6-1 and will break just inside Mucho Macho Man from post position 6. To Honor and Serve is just outside of him in post position 8.
Trickmeister has won six of his seven career starts, the only blemish a sixth in the Grade I Donn in February, which was won by Hymn Book, a 6-1 choice here.
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will ride Mucho Macho Man for the first time today. From what she knows about the horse and what she knows about Smith, Ritvo isn’t concerned with the two having no history together.
“The horse is really good. He just has a really nice running style, and I think Mike Smith is a very smooth rider,” Ritvo said. “I think they’re just going to get it together. We just like the way everything’s coming together.”
The rest of the field for the Suburban includes Buffum and Endorsement.
Buffum has won his last three races, but is yet to hit the wire first in stakes company. His last race was his first this year, an allowance optional claimer at Belmont on May 28. His previous start was another allowance optional claimer last September.
Endorsement won the Grade III Texas Mile two starts back, and was third to Alternation in the Grade III Pimlico Special on May 12.
There’s tons of talent in this field, but Ritvo can’t help but like the spot for Mucho Macho Man.
“I don’t know how you can’t like the horse in this race,” she said. “We’re ready to run. It’s a good race and good horses in the older division, and I’m glad. It’s nice to see good older horses.”
Gypsy Robin ready
Some time on the Oklahoma Training Track at Saratoga has Gypsy Robin ready for a return to dirt.
At least, that is the hope of trainer Wesley Ward after the 3-year-old filly won her last two stakes over synthetic surfaces. He will run her as the 3-1 second choice in today’s Grade III $150,000 Victory Ride at Belmont. She had been cross-entered in Thursday’s Western Larla, also at Belmont.
“I cross-entered her because I didn’t want to go into the Prioress off a loss,” Ward told NYRA. “But then I had Robbie Davis breeze her for me up in Saratoga, and she just breezed so good. I think she’s training better than she ever has before. You never know, but she might run better than she ever has before, too. If she runs a big race, I’d hate to waste it on a lesser stake.”
That good breeze was four furlongs in 48.32 on Sunday.
Gypsy Robin won the Inaugural at Presque Isle Downs on May 15. Two back, in her only other start this year, she won the Grade II Beaumont at Keeneland on April 15. She will cover the six furlongs over Belmont’s dirt track under Julio Garcia, who took over the ride from Jeffrey Sanchez for the win in the Inaugural.
She closed her 2-year-old year with a win in the Sorority at Monmouth. She was fourth in the Grade III Schuylerville at Saratoga last July.
Gypsy Robin, co-owned by New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker, is 4-0-0 from her six career starts.
Her top competition will likely be Agave Kiss, the 2-5 favorite on the rail. Dominguez will ride for trainer Rudy Rodriguez and owner Flying Zee Racing Stables.
Agave Kiss has won all six of her career starts, four of them this year and all of those in stakes. All six races have been at the Victory Ride distance.
Her most recent win was in the Miss Preakness at Pimlico on May 18, in which she won by 51⁄2 lengths with a Beyer Speed Figure of 106.
“She’s easy to train,” Rodriguez told NYRA. “We try to treat her right, and she does it all herself. I feel very lucky. I wish I could have a lot of them [like her].”
Game On Dude will take on six challengers for the Grade I $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup at Hollywood Park today, a 11⁄4-mile run for horses 3 and older. The 5-year-old gelding, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, is unbeaten on American soil this year, winning the Grade II San Antonio at Santa Anita and the Grade II Californian at Hollywood Park.
Between the wins, he was 12th in the $10 million Dubai World Cup. He finished last year with a second-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to Drosselmeyer by a length and a half.
He won the Californian by 71⁄2 lengths, but Kettle Corn, who will break from post position 3 in the Hollywood Gold Cup, was the best of the rest in a short field. Kettle Corn has hit the trifecta in each of his last six races, winning three of them, including the Grade III Native Diver at Hollywood Park.
Also at Hollywood Park today, the Grade II Royal Heroine Mile for fillies and mares 3 and older, going a mile on the turf, features Quiet Oasis, winner of the Grade III Wilshire here two starts back and second in the Grade I Gamely in her last.
Mega Dream has won her last two, including the Great Lady M here in her last start.
Inglorious, winner of the Queen’s Plate last year and sixth in the Alabama at Saratoga, will try to regain her stride Sunday in the Grade II Dance Smartly at Woodbine, covering 11⁄8 miles on the turf for fillies and mares 3 and older.
She has not found the winner’s enclosure since claiming the Queen’s Plate by beating the boys last June.
Marketing Mix, winner of the Grade II Nassau on June 2, will provide stiff competition for Inglorious, as will Indian Pond.
Indian Pond comes off a third in the Nassau, her first attempt at a graded stakes. She is 3-0-3 from eight career starts.
Pletcher’s Turbo Compressor tops the field at 2-1 today in the Grade I $500,000 United Nations at Monmouth, a 13⁄8-miles turf race for horses 3 and older.
With Brilliant Speed, Slim Shadey and Air Support also in the field, it’s a wide-open race.
Turbo Compressor is coming off a win in the Colonial Turf Cup. He was eighth in the Grade I Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day.
Brilliant Speed hasn’t won since the Grade III Saranac at Saratoga last September 4, but has consistently been in contention in Grade I affairs, most recently a fifth in the Manhattan on June 9 and third in the Turf Classic at Churchill.
Slim Shadey has finished in the top two in his last five races, winning the Grade II San Marcos at Santa Anita on Feb. 11. He was second in the Turf Classic.
Also at Monmouth today is the Grade II Monmouth Cup at a mile for horses 3 and older. Flat Out, who was second last year in both the Grade I Whitney and Grade I Woodward at Saratoga, is the 2-1 favorite. He also won the Jockey Club Gold Cup last October.
Field size changes
On Tuesday, NYRA announced a change to the field size for its juvenile races at Saratoga this year. Field sizes for 2-year-old maiden races at sprint distances will be limited to eight starters, while the field sizes for their two-turn races will be limited to 10 starters.
“The catalyst behind limiting the field sizes in the maiden races for juveniles was two-fold,” NYRA vice president and director of racing P.J. Campo said in a news release. “The smaller fields are expected to produce more cleanly run events while also creating the opportunity to showcase more high-quality races during the meet and beyond. We expect this change will strengthen NYRA’s juvenile stakes and allowance programs by helping horses gain the experience they need to compete successfully at higher levels.”
The Grade III Schuylerville for 2-year-old fillies and the Grade III James Marvin for sprinters will open the 40-day meet on July 20.
“Protecting our horses is an important mandate,” Rick Violette, NYRA board member and president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, said in the release. “Larger fields of inexperienced young horses often result in roughly run races. This approach will offer a kinder, gentler and, perhaps, wiser introduction to racing for young horses, and could, in fact, extend their careers.
“Owners will have a better opportunity to fairly evaluate the performances of their horses in manageable fields. This also will increase the chance that young horses will improve mentally and physically from their first races, rather than having to recover from them.”
Around the tracks
Mechanicville native Chad Brown will saddle Self Control in the third race at Belmont today, a one-mile allowance optional claiming race, under Dominguez.
The 4-year-old has finished in the money in his last five races and six of his last seven.
Sunday, Brown will send out Kid Kate in the Chaldea, a six-furlong run for fillies and mares 3 and older. The 5-year-old will carry Jose Lezcano and try to win her first race since the Lady Tak on Aug. 31 at Saratoga.
Kid Kate has won all four of her career starts at Saratoga, including her debut in 2009 and the Rachel Alexandra last year.
Last summer at Belmont, she was second in the Grade III Bed o’ Roses before heading north. When she returned to Belmont in the fall, she was fifth in the Miss Golden Circle. She started her 2012 campaign at Belmont with a fifth in the Grade II Vagrancy at Belmont. . . .
Trainer Teresa Pompay, a Saratoga Central Catholic graduate, will send Zero Rate Policy out for the Mr. Prospector at Monmouth Park on Sunday. The six-furlong race is for horses 3 and older. Zero Rate Policy is 5-3-0 from 13 career starts.