ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 15, 2014)–Mucho Macho Man, winner of the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Nov. 2, will return to the scene of his greatest triumph, as he has been committed to run next in the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino at a mile and a quarter on March 8, according to his trainer, Kathy Ritvo.
A dazzling 14-length winner versus Florida-breds in Gulfstream Park’s Sunshine Millions Classic Jan. 18, there had been varied speculation as to what might be next for the 6-year-old son of Macho Uno.
“There were some great opportunities for him, but the horse is telling us he’s getting ready now,” Ritvo said this morning from Gulfstream following a stellar five furlong work in 58.14, best of 70 at the distance. “We thought long and hard about where to go, and we have to do what we feel is best for the horse. I think he’d run well wherever he went. We know about going to Santa Anita now, so it’s nice to go back.”
Finn Green, racing manager for “MMM’s” owners, Dean and Patti Reeves, also addressed factors that led to the decision to compete in the 77th Big ‘Cap.
“With a horse like him, you have to look at all of your options,” said Green. “At this stage of his career, there are business considerations that you have to examine. The business considerations came out that it’s best to keep the horse here.”
Ridden to victory in his last three races by Gary Stevens, Mucho Macho Man came to Santa Anita early, and responded with a 4 ¼ length win in the Grade I Awesome Again on Sept. 28, his final prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
“I’m elated to be able to ride Mucho Macho Man in the Big ‘Cap,” said Stevens, a member of Thoroughbred Racing’s Hall of Fame and a four-time winner of North America’s longest continually run hundred grander. “The plan at the end of last year was to come here and I’m glad they’re sticking with the plan. His race in Florida was sensational and we know he’s run two incredible races here at Santa Anita.
“Kathy has done an unbelievable job with this horse and I want to thank her entire team, Dean, Patti and Finn, for allowing me to ride this horse and for bringing him here for what could be one of the greatest Big ‘Caps of all time. It’s truly an honor to be involved in it.”
In addition to Mucho Macho Man, who now has nine wins from 24 starts and earnings of $5,580,410, it is expected that eventual Eclipse Award winner Will Take Charge, second, beaten a nose by “MMM” in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Lea, a length and a half winner over “WTC” in the Grade I Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Feb. 9, will join the likes of two-time Big ‘Cap winner Game On Dude and others at Santa Anita on March 8.
“This is great news not only for those of us here at Santa Anita, but for the entire industry,” said Keith Brackpool, Santa Anita Chairman. “For more than 75 years, the Big ‘Cap has been synonymous with championship racing at the highest level and we want to sincerely thank Mr. and Mrs. Reeves and Kathy Ritvo for making the decision to run here. We are excited and very hopeful this is going to be an unforgettable day and we welcome all of those who are intending to run.”
First run during the depths of the Great Depression on Feb. 23, 1935, the Santa Anita Handicap has been won by legendary horses such as Seabiscuit (1940), Noor (1950), Round Table (1958), Lucky Debonair (1966), Pretense (1967), Ack Ack (1971), Cougar II (1973), Spectacular Bid (1980), John Henry (1981 & ’82), Alysheba (1988) and most recently, by Game On Dude in 2011 and 2013.