SUBURBAN HANDICAP | PURSE: $350,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 2 | 1 1/8 MILE
Reeves Thoroughbred Racing's Mucho Macho Man drew off in the stretch of Saturday's Grade 2, $350,000 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park to assert his claim as the top older horse this season. The Kathy Ritvo trainee opened his four-year-old campaign with a pair of wins in the Florida Sunshine Millions Classic and Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap, and finished this nine-furlong fast-track contest in a swift 1:46 2/5.
"That was fabulous! What a great day!" Ritvo enthused. "He likes to be here, likes the racetrack here, and we're really happy to be here. He ran a great race. We're so excited. We're going to take it slow and see what happens. We'll make sure he comes back great and we'll look again [at what's next]."
Trickmeister moved up to set the pace in the Suburban through fractions of :23, :45 3/5 and 1:09 2/5 with jockey Mike Smith keeping Mucho Macho Man drafting just to his outside and behind. The massive four-year-old ranged up to challenge rounding the turn and easily took over in the stretch, pulling clear as the near 6-1 fourth choice to return $13.60, $5.40 and $4.10.
"I'm really impressed, to be honest with you. I knew he was a nice horse, but he really, really impressed me," Smith admitted following Mucho Macho Man's win. "From the time I got on him he was so confident. He left the gate in great order -- for a big horse, he's quick! I mean, every step was a winning one.
"I couldn't believe how easy he beat [a strong field]. I mean, you put that bunch in the Breeders' Cup Classic, your favorite is going to come out of this race. He just ran them off their feet. I'm shocked at how impressive he was was. I didn't touch him."
Hymn Book came with a game late run from last but was no match for Mucho Macho Man, finishing 2 1/2 lengths behind in second. Trickmeister was another three lengths back in third, while 7-5 favorite To Honor and Serve ran fourth. Stay Thirsty, the near 9-2 second pick faded in the lane to be sixth lengths farther behind in fifth, with Buffum and a distanced Endorsement completing the order under the wire.
"I thought he ran great," trainer Shug McGaughey said of Hymn Book. "It's just a shame we gave up that much at the break. He stumbled leaving there, and by the time [jockey Alan Garcia] had him gathered up they were going pretty fast. He just got too far out of it to try to make up that much ground against that kind of horses. He passed all of them but one.
"I'm disappointed because I think if he could have been in a good position then he would have had a chance, but I'm pleased with the way he ran."
Mucho Macho Man was a top contender on the Kentucky Derby trail last season following a nice win in the Grade 2 Risen Star and a third-placing in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby. The bay son of Macho Uno parlayed those efforts, as well as a fourth in the Grade 3 Holy Bull from earlier in the year, into a third-place finish in the "Run for the Roses." However, he wasn't able to challenge in the final two jewels of the Triple Crown, running sixth in the Preakness and seventh in the Belmont Stakes as one of only three horses to contest all three legs in 2011.
Mucho Macho Man was given a well-deserved break following his Belmont run, not returning until early November to dominate an optional claimer by 5 3/4 lengths at Aqueduct. He showed up three months later in Florida for the Gulfstream Park 'Cap, and entered the Suburban off a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Alysheba on the Kentucky Oaks undercard.
The Florida-bred's career line, which also includes placings in the Remsen and Nashua, both Grade 2s, from his juvenile season, now stands at 16-6-3-4, and he's banked $1,306,410 in lifetime earnings.
Mucho Macho Man is the only black-type winner out of the stakes-winning Ponche mare Ponche de Leona. Tracing the female line farther back, this is the family of multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire Guided Tour; Grade 1 scorers Dream Empress and Prenup; and multiple Grade 2 heroines Possible Mate and Fairy Garden.