Mucho Macho Man followed the roadmap perfectly last year.
He took a wrong exit this year, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still make his way to the desired destination, a return to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. And Saratoga Race Course again will be one of the important landmarks along the way.
Last year, he finished second in the Woodward on his way to nearly winning the Classic, falling a half-length short of Fort Larned.
This time, Mucho Macho Man will start earlier in the meet, in the Whitney Handicap on Aug. 3.
The 5-year-old son of Macho Uno arrived on the Saratoga backstretch from Fair Hill in Maryland on Tuesday afternoon, and breezed a mile in 1:44.87 on the main track on Friday.
“He’s definitely matured,” trainer Kathy Ritvo said. “He loves to train, he really does. We got him up here, and he seems very happy. I think he knows he’s been here before, he likes the surface. He’s just been going well, and he’s really smart.”
With the 150th Saratoga meet just six days away, it’s still pretty quiet in the barn area on the backside of the main track, especially in the shade of barn 23, where Ritvo has five stalls.
Mucho Macho Man was the only horse to breeze a mile.
His 4-year-old campaign consisted of six evenly spaced races from January to November and produced a record of 3-2-1, with wins in the Grade II Suburban at Belmont Park and Grade II Gulfstream Park Handicap.
He was beaten less than a combined length in his last two starts, a second to To Honor and Serve in the Woodward and the second in the BC Classic.
“It was the perfect year . . . except for the last race,” Ritvo said.
She and Dean Reeves of Reeves Thoroughbred Racing actually mapped out the 2012 schedule in the fall of 2011, when Mucho Macho Man was one of just two horses to run in all three Triple Crown races, finishing third in the Kentucky Derby to Animal Kingdom, the other one to do it.
In 2012, Mucho Macho Man made every race he was supposed to make.
He started 2013 the same way, but was seventh in the Sunshine Millions Classic, a race he won last year, and then his health went south.
Mucho Macho Man came down with a bacterial infection and mild virus in February and didn’t get back to racing until June 14, when he was third in the listed Criminal Type as a steppingstone seven weeks out from the Whitney.
“He just wasn’t himself, so we allowed him the time to get through it. He had a really good year last year, so . . .
“He’s come through those issues, and that race was good. It just set us up for the Whitney.”
Normandy Invasion, the Travers hopeful for Mechanicville native Chad Brown, likely will miss the Aug. 24 race at Saratoga because of a lingering foot problem that could even jeopardize the rest of his 2013 campaign.
He last breezed on June 23 and was scheduled to be examined on Friday by hoof specialist Ian McKinlay, best known for having patched Big Brown’s quarter crack leading up to the 2008 Belmont Stakes.
Normandy Invasion, owned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm, has just a maiden win to his credit, but was second in the Grade I Wood
Memorial to qualify for the Kentucky Derby field, then led the Derby at the top of the stretch before tiring to fourth behind Orb.
He was considered for the Preakness, but Brown said he wasn’t carrying his flesh, so they skipped it to point toward the Travers, with a prep in the Curlin or Jim Dandy.
At 9-5 on the morning line, Boisterous is a slight favorite in the Grade I Man o’ War at Belmont Park today, just ahead of 2-1 Optimizer.
Boisterous, 3-2-0 from his last five starts, takes the place of favorite from stablemate Point of Entry, who won the Man o’ War last year, but is on the shelf with an injury.
“We always thought he was a Grade I kind of horse,” trainer Shug McGaughey said of Boisterous, who was third in the Man o’ War and fifth in the Sword Dancer in 2011, and third in the Manhattan and ninth in the Arlington Million last year.
Optimizer is coming off a second to Point of Entry in the Manhattan.
Ray Bryan of Saratoga Springs will be at Belmont to watch Finnegans Wake, a 10-1 shot in the Man o’ War. Bryan is a part owner through Donegal Racing.
The card also includes the Solar Splendor for 3-year-olds at a mile and a sixteenth on the inner turf.
Brown has the top two choices, Noble Tune and Balance the Books, who were second and third, respectively, in the BC Juvenile Turf last year.
big turf WEEKEND
Besides the Man o’ War and Solar Splendor, this is a big turf stakes weekend, with graded races at Arlington Park, Colonial Downs, Hollywood Park and Delaware Park.
A little over an hour after the Man o’ War is run, Bryan will have his eye on the Arlington simulcast to watch Dullahan run in the Grade III Arlington Handicap in his first start since finishing 11th in the $10 million Dubai World Cup in March.
A two-time Grade I winner last year, in the Blue Grass and Pacific Classic, and third in the Kentucky Derby, Dullahan is the 3-1 second choice behind 5-2 Rahystrada.
The opening day stakes at Saratoga on Friday are the Grade III James Marvin, a prep for the Forego, and the Grade III Schuylerville for 2-year-old fillies.
Lined up for the Schuylerville are True Blue Nation, Aibhilin, Bahnah, Brazen Persuasion, Designer Legs, Respectful Wishes and perhaps Silver Valley.
The James Marvin is likely to draw Souper Speedy, Jaguar Paw, Love to Run, Hello Lover, Associate, Laurie’s Rocket, Politicallycorrect, Strapping Groom and perhaps Right to Vote.
Kentucky Oaks winner Princess of Sylmar, owned by Schenectady native Ed Stanco, is scheduled to run in next Saturday’s Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks, along with Unlimited Budget, Cue the Moon, Marathon Lady, My Happy Face and perhaps Let Me Entertain U.
The CCA Oaks undercard includes the Grade III Shuvee, which may draw undefeated Eblouissante in what would be a highly anticipated return to the races for the half-sister to Horse of the Year Zenyatta.
Eblouissante is 2-for-2, but hasn’t raced since January at Santa Anita. If she doesn’t run in the Shuvee, she’ll go in a second-level allowance on July 22.
The Shuvee is expected to draw Authenticity, Summer Applause, Moon Philly, Royal Lahaina, Sea Island, and perhaps Flashy American and Lady Samurai.
Next Sunday, the Grade II Sanford is expected to draw the top two from the Bashford Manor, Debt Ceiling and Hollywood Talent.
SPA OPEN HOUSE
Saratoga will host its 33rd annual open house on Sunday, featuring a free family concert headlined by “Dancing with the Stars” runner-up and Disney Channel star Zendaya at 3 p.m.
Traditional open-house activities will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will include the Newman E. Wait Jr. Trials at noon.
Reserved seats for the concert are sold out. General admission for the concert is available on a first-come, first-served basis on the track apron. No blankets, chairs or pop-ups will be allowed.
This year’s event will continue the longstanding tradition of supporting local community and non-profit organizations through nominal fees for various games and activities and the sale of discounted food and beverages.
The backyard will play host to a variety of activities including pony rides, inflatables, face painting, caricatures and mini golf, among other games. Kids can also take part in an equine-themed art contest in celebration of the 150th anniversary for the opportunity to win a named race and present a trophy in the winner’s circle during the summer meet.
NEW SARATOGA BOOK
With 150 years of history to pick from, it isn’t difficult to find literature on Saratoga Race Course.
Much of it covers the same ground, though.
A new book by National Museum of Racing historian Allan Carter and long-time Gazette turf writer and sports columnist Mike Kane takes an intriguingly different approach.
Their 144-page paperback “150 Years of Racing in Saratoga” delves into some of the characters, events and stories that are more obscure, but are just as responsible for giving the historic track its identity as are John Morrissey and Secretariat.
The co-authors dig deep into the archives, race charts and statistics to shine a light on long-forgotten milestones and accomplishments by horses and horsemen alike.
Besides the stories, the book is rich with color and black-and-white photos and charts.
Until 2003, Carter was a law librarian at the New York State Library for 30 years. He became the racing museum historian in 2004.
Kane was a sportswriter for 30 years, 25 of them at the Gazette, before leaving in 2005 to become the communications officer at the racing museum. He is a former president of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association.
They will hold four meet-and-greet events in Saratoga in the coming weeks.
At 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, they’ll be at Barnes & Noble in Wilton Square on Route 50.
The rest of the schedule includes 7:30 p.m. Monday, July 29, at the Saratoga Springs Public Library on Henry Street; 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 8, at the new Northshire Bookstore at 424 Broadway; and 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20, at the National Museum of Racing at 191 Union Ave.
FAN EDUCATION TODAY
Capital OTB host and “Trackfacts” handicapping sheet author Tom Amello will host a fan education program at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame at 1 p.m. today.
The program is free and open to the public.
Amello will talk about how the odds fluctuate, fundamentals of handicapping and the 2013 Saratoga meet, followed by an audience Q&A.
The program is expected to last 90 minutes, and there will be handouts and prize drawings.
The Racing Hall of Fame will again offer the “Hall of Fame Legends” series on Tuesdays during the Saratoga meet, in conjunction with the Capital OTB TV network.
The program is free with paid admission to the museum and hall of fame.
The first scheduled program will be this Tuesday and will feature Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito at 11 a.m., as interviewed by former jockey Jeff Carle. There will be opportunity for the audience to ask questions.
Hall of Fame jockeys Angel Cordero Jr. and John Velazquez will appear at 11 a.m. on July 23.
The museum and hall of fame will also host a Saratoga Preview program in the Hall of Fame Gallery at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
Panelists will include NYRA president and CEO Christopher Kay, racing secretary P.J. Campo, Velazquez, trainer Linda Rice and Saratogian turf writer Michael Veitch.
The preview is free to the public and will feature audience-driven discussion with the panelists.
AROUND THE TRACKS
Trainer Bill Mott said that Suburban winner Flat Out will point toward the Whitney.
Mott’s champion older female Royal Delta worked a bullet 58.90 for five furlongs on the Belmont main track on Sunday and will run in the Delaware Handicap next Saturday. . . .
Trainer David Jacobson broke the record for wins at the Belmont spring/summer meet in last Sunday’s sixth race, won by Abra.
That gave Jacobson 41 victories to pass the 40 Todd Pletcher won in 2003.
“It’s an honor to be mentioned in the same breath as Todd Pletcher,” Jacobson said. “This isn’t supposed to happen. We’re a claiming outfit, mostly, so we’re supposed to do well at Aqueduct, not Belmont during the spring and summer.
“But this gives our whole outfit momentum going into Saratoga.” . . .
Jockey Dylan Davis, a Saratoga High School graduate and son of former jockey Robbie Davis, was on winning mounts to complete the early daily double that paid $313.60 at Indiana Downs on Wednesday.
Secondhand Justice was 14-1 in the first, and Miss Scout went off at almost 12-1 in the second. . . .
Jockey Russell Baze’s all-time leading win total hit the 12,000 mark on Sunday when he rode Handful of Pearls to victory in the 11th race at the Alameda County Fair meet in Pleasanton, Calif. . . .
The word was out on Ari the Adventurer at Belmont on Thursday, and she lived up to her 1-9 odds in winning first time out by 63⁄4 lengths for Todd Pletcher and Stonestreet Stable. Look for her in a Saratoga 2-year-old graded stakes race.
HERE AND THERE
Sewickley, a two-time Grade I winner (1989 and 1990 Vosburgh), died due to complications of colic in Maryland on Wednesday.
He earned just over $1 million and was 11-9-4 from 32 starts. . . .
Four days after becoming a Grade I winner, Starship Truffles was added to the catalogue for Fasig-Tipton’s new horses of racing age auction to begin on Monday in Lexington, Ky.
Starship Truffles beat Judy the Beauty by 33⁄4 lengths in the Princess Rooney at Calder last Saturday. . . .
At 9 p.m. on Monday, WMHT TV will premiere “The Track at Saratoga, America’s Grandest Race Course,” an hour-long historical documentary that will transport viewers through 150 years of owners, trainers, jockeys and horses.
The Irish American Heritage Museum presents its newest exhibit “The Irish and Horse Racing: John Morrissey” at its 370 Broadway Museum Center in Albany with a grand opening reception at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
The exhibit tells the story of John Morrissey, “The Lion of Saratoga,” whose vision and perseverance launched thoroughbred racing in Saratoga Springs in 1863.
“The Irish and Horse Racing: John Morrissey” features photographs, illustrations, newspaper accounts, music, and costumes.
The exhibit is open through August on Wednesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., and on Saturdays and Sundays from noon-4 p.m.