Mucho Macho Man makes his 2014 debut in the Sunshine Millions Classic, a race he won in 2012 (Photos courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire).
For the second year in a row, and the ninth time since 2000, the defending Breeders’ Cup Classic winner is returning to the track the year after his victory.
Mucho Macho Man will be returning to the races just 2 ½ months after annexing the Breeders’ Cup Classic, running in the Florida Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 18. While he is one of nine Breeders’ Cup Classic winners to race the following year, he is only one of three Classic winners since 2000 to return the following January.
Mucho Macho Man has a checkered past with the Sunshine Millions Classic. The son of Macho Uno won the 2012 edition of the race over multiple Grade 1 winner Ron the Greek but last year year, he was pulled up in the race while Ron the Greek went on to win decisively by 11 ¼ lengths.
After that loss, it was discovered that Mucho Macho Man was battling an infection and he subsequently was sidelined for five months.
While it took a few races for Mucho Macho Man to get rolling after his return, he put in his two best career performances when winning the Awesome Again Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic after shipping out to Southern California.
MUCHO MACHO MAN WON THE RACE OF HIS LIFE IN THE BREEDERS' CUP CLASSIC
Returning as a 6-year-old in 2014, Mucho Macho Man won’t have Ron the Greek to contend with in the Sunshine Millions this year.
Mucho Macho Man is one of only two graded stakes winners in the race with Gourmet Dinner earning his graded stakes win in the 2010 Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes. Mucho Macho Man and Gourmet Dinner have met before as both debuted in the same race as 2-year-olds with Gourmet Dinner beating Mucho Macho Man by a length. The two had a rematch in the Holy Bull Stakes the following year with Gourmet Dinner again beating Mucho Macho Man when the pair finished third and fourth, respectively, behind Dialed In.
Mucho Macho Man took a month off after winning the Breeders’ Cup last year but he’s worked six times since Dec. 7, all on Gulfstream’s dirt track where he is based with trainer Kathy Ritvo.
“It’s a perfect place for him to start,” said Finn Green, racing manager for Reeves Thoroughbred Racing. “We really started in June of last year, so we’re kind of in mid-campaign right now. We’re in a good place. The horse is in great shape. He’s ready."
Mucho Macho Man could potentially have a home run of a day if all goes his way on Saturday. The Sunshine Millions Classic goes off at 5:03 p.m. ET with Gulfstream Park hosting the Eclipse Awards that night. Mucho Macho Man is a finalist in both the older male and Horse of the Year categories.
“I’m honored for him to be nominated,” Ritvo said. “I hope they recognized the biggest race of the year. He had a great year. They can’t take that away from him. One way or another, we’ll be happy. And the other horses had great years, too, so congratulations to them, also. It is what it is. We know how good he is. We could have a really good day.”
Mucho Macho Man’s race is part of the Florida Sunshine Millions day, with the first Sunshine Millions race going off as Race 5 at 2:35 p.m. ET. All the day’s races can be seen live at www.Gulfstreampark.com/racing.