Friday, December 20, 2013
BC Classic rematch will have to wait…but not for long
Racing fans are eagerly awaiting a rematch between Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge, who finished a nose apart in the Breeders' Cup Classic. For a brief period, it seemed like it could happen in the Donn Handicap at Gulfstream on Feb. 8. Now it is more likely to occur in the Big Cap at Santa Anita a month later.
D. Wayne Lukasâ announcement that he is targeting the Donn for Will Take Chargeâs seasonal debut raised a delicious possibility. The Donn also was a candidate for the return to the races of Mucho Macho Man, according to his trainer, Kathy Ritvo, spouse of Gulfstream president Tim Ritvo.
Not only would this be a Breedersâ Cup Classic rematch, it is potentially a confrontation between Eclipse Award winners. Will Take Chargeâs victory over Game on Dude in the Clark Handicap makes him the solid favorite to be named outstanding 3-year-old.
Mucho Macho Manâs triumph in the BC Classic, with Will Take Charge and Game on Dude behind him, gives him a shot to overtake the Dude as top older horse.
The new Gulfstream, with its limited seating capacity, would have a difficult time containing all the fans who might turn out for an early season showdown of the horses who finished a nose apart in the Breedersâ Cup Classic. But Tim Ritvo would love the opportunity to try to squeeze them in.
Alas, the faceoff is still likely to take place in the first quarter of the year but it probably wonât be in the Donn. The Santa Anita Handicap is the likely spot, according to Ritvo, who trained Mucho Macho Man before he took the job running Gulfstream. Heâs also got an inside line to Kathy as the last person to talk to her every night and the first person she sees every morning.
Tim is still in line to get the BC Classicâs first two but probably in separate stakes. Mucho Macho Man is now pointing toward the Sunshine Millions Classic on Jan. 18, a few hours before the Eclipse winners are announced at Gulfstream.
While itâs disappointing to the racing world, this is a sensible approach. Why wring out your horse in a potential gut-wrenching first race of the season for $500,000 when you can face Florida-breds only for $400,000.
Ritvo offered another prudent reason for using the Sunshine Millions, which Mucho Macho Man won in 2012, to ease him into his 2014 campaign. âItâs six weeks from there to the Santa Anita Handicap. The Donn is only four weeks. Kathy likes that spacing better. Both trainers, Kathy and Mr. Lukas, are going to do whatâs best for their horse.â
The Sunshine Millions as a prep for the Big âCap has successful precedent. Ron the Greek ran second to Mucho Macho Man in 2012, then went west to bury the Big Cap field.
This doesnât mean Ritvo wouldnât love to have the MMM-WTC showdown at his track. Suppose there was an indication that a significant bump to the Donn purse could lure both into the race? âThat would have to come from the corporate side,â he said. âIt would look self-serving (as Kathyâs spouse) if I suggested it.â
Frank Stronach has demonstrated a willingness to spend freely but this is an unlikely scenario for a simple reason. Stronach also owns Santa Anita.
Would Tim resort to pillow talk to try to get Kathy to change her mind. âShe wouldnât listen to me anyway,â he said with the smile of a long married man. âShe never does.â
More means less racing reportage
Racing reportage continues to slide off the media map. The Miami Herald, for decades the dominant newspaper not only in the Miami area but the entire state of Florida, is the latest publication to downgrade racing coverage.
It has not staffed a major race (or minor one) since the Summit of Speed in July. Not even the opening day of the premier winter season at Gulfstream and the eight-stakes Claiming Crown were deemed worthy of dispatching a staffer or free-lancer.
(Disclosure: I cover stakes for the South Florida Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. But the one-time fierce rivalry between the two papers has dissolved to the extent that the papers have agreed to allow access to some of each otherâs reporting to control expenses.)
The turn of events in Miami isnât as distressing as in New York, where the Post and Daily News exiled scaled-down racing coverage to the internet. The Herald has used wire services and releases from the Gulfstream press department to report the results of Saturday stakes the past couple of weeks. But there have been no advances, which used to be featured regularly and arguably are more useful to racing, since it alerts fans of whatâs coming up.
The lack of staff reporting on stakes could be considered collateral damage in the war between Calder and Gulfstream. The Herald continues to publish entries and charts of both tracks. With head-to-head conflicts every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, as well as Hialeahâs quarterhorse meeting, the agate takes up a full page, which has squeezed out column inches formerly devoted to racing stories.
Iâm told this is a fluid situation, which could change at any time. The new year brings a new budget, which might provide resources for a free-lance reporter, which the Herald has utilized the past few years.
The presence of star horses with well recognizable names, such as Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge, wouldnât hurt.