The page just flipped to August, but in many ways, the season still hasn’t quite begun for Mucho Macho Man.
By this time last year, he had two Grade II victories under his belt heading into the Woodward at Saratoga Race Course, and even though he just missed by a neck to To Honor and Serve and subsequently lost another close one in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to Fort Larned, his connections have called it a perfectly campaigned 2012.
This year resembles 2012 in no way other than the fact that trainer Kathy Ritvo believes Mucho Macho Man is as fit and training as well as he did leading into the Woodward. He’ll need to be, as he tackles Saturday’s Whitney, against a difficult field, instead of the Woodward this time.
“I think he is doing as good as he did coming into the Woodward last year,” Ritvo said on Wednesday after Mucho Macho Man drew post No. 2 in the eight-horse Whitney field. “He hasn’t missed a work. It’s a tough field, but he belongs here.”
Owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Mucho Macho Man has raced just twice in 2013, and was eased in his debut, the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park in January.
He won that race last year to kick off a season that fell just a little short in the win column, but otherwise was executed just as it was mapped out on the calendar, with some nice wins to show for it.
He won the Grade II Gulfstream Park Handicap and Grade II Suburban, and fell just a little short in the Woodward and Breeders’ Cup Classic.
The plan was to kick off 2013 the same way, in the Sunshine Millions Classic, but after stalking the lead as the 2-5 favorite, jockey Mike Smith dropped Mucho Macho Man back out of the race on the turn and eased him past the wire well after the rest of the field had finished.
Smith said afterward that Mucho Macho Man kept raising his head on the turn as if he had a breathing problem, but he checked out without a hitch upon examination back at the barn, so Ritvo chalked it up to an aversion to the sloppy track.
“We really had a nice 2012,” owner Dean Reeves said. “Everything went our way. When you’re in this business, you’re due for a little downside. We had a tough start in 2013. We have a lot of confidence that the rest of this year will be great.”
“This year, we had a slow start,” Ritvo said. “We ran into a track that was not to his liking. Then, he came up with a virus. We restarted everything because he’s such a good horse. He came back and had a really good race in the Criminal Type at Belmont.”
Mucho Macho Man’s second start of the season was a third behind San Pablo and Hymn Book in the mile-and-a-sixteenth Criminal Type, his first start in almost five months.
Mucho Macho Man took the lead at the quarter pole, but couldn’t hold off Hymn Book on the inside and San Pablo on the outside. Still, he finished well.
Edgar Prado rode that race and gets the mount back in the Whitney.
“Not that he needed a race, but it was a good race to get back to what turned out to be a tough race,” Ritvo said. “We were proud of his effort, he was still finishing and Edgar was happy with him, so I think it sets him up perfectly.
“It was similar to his race in the Alysheba last year before he won the Suburban.”
Mucho Macho Man was third behind Successful Dan and Fort Larned in the Alysheba at Churchill Downs last year and will run into those two again on Saturday.
Successful Dan will break from the rail, and Fort Larned will be one stall outside of Mucho Macho Man in the No. 3 post.
Throw in Cross Traffic in the 4 hole, and it should be an interesting duel for the short run into the first turn, with the closers all on the outside staying out of the way.
“We’re thrilled to be here,” Reeves said. “We think he’s gotten back into position where he was last year. He’s moving forward. We’re looking forward to a great race. There are a lot of fast horses in that first four [post positions]. I think we’ll be fine. The jockeys have to let their horses break well and set up as the race unfolds.”