Will To Honor And Serve take the next step toward what was promised after he ran so fast, and so convincingly in the Remsen, way back in the fall of his 2-year-old season?
Will the Horse of the Year tack taken by Team Repole/Pletcher—a second half summer-fall campaign--prove the one to put them on the proper path?
Has Mucho Macho Man, who only turned 4 on June 15, grown into his big frame and is he ready to deliver on the promise he showed at Gulfstream Park this winter?
And you know what they say about potential in sports, right; the one about it’s the heaviest burden for an athlete branded as such? It certainly was clear; something had to give.
To Honor And Serve was warm in the paddock--but then which horse wasn’t—but he had every chance and failed to seriously threaten when the real running started. “No apparent excuse,” said trainer Bill Mott.
Stay Thirsty cranked up to make a bid at the three-eighths pole, a rally that lasted all of a sixteenth of a mile. He beat two horses.
As it turns out, Mucho Macho Man’s South Florida campaign was no mirage. The phantasm was the Alysheba, in which he was a non-threatening third by seven lengths to Successful Dan. It was the first time since early in his 3-year-old season that he lost ground through deep stretch.
But not in the Suburban. Mucho Macho Man was a star again today, beating a deep field of handicap runners, stalking the pace as easy as you please, took two sided pressure into the stretch then, as the racetrackers say, he walked his beat.
“I couldn’t believe how easy he beat them. I mean, you put that bunch in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, your favorite is going to come out of this race.”
The Suburban pace was as honest as it gets at this level, :23.06 then followed by a :22.62. Trickmeister, ridden by Ramon Dominguez, who stayed with this runner and not MMM, was setting it and Smith was content to stalk—and he was stalking comfortably, thank you.
Positions remained virtually unchanged, with THAS stalking from third, still in the thick of contention at that point. But after hitting the eighth pole two in front in 1:33.82, Macho Man raced his final furlong in :12.76, stopping the timer in a very worthy 1:46.58 for nine furlongs.
“For a big horse, he’s quick,” Smith said. “Every step was a winning one. I’m shocked at how impressive he was. I didn’t touch him.”
And neither could the competition. Mucho Macho Man is back. He can hardly get much bigger but imagine what would he would be if he got even stronger.
“We’re so excited, that was fabulous,” said winning trainer Kathy Ritvo. “He likes to be here, he likes the racetrack here. We’ll make sure he comes back great, take it slow, and see what happens. What a great day!”
HAIL TO THE CHIEF
The prelude, the Grade 3 Victory Ride for 3-year-old fillies, was about seeing see how undefeated state-bred Agave Kiss would acquit herself in open graded company for the second time. Actually, not very well.
Not after Jamaican Smoke ran her into the ground, putting the pressure on throughout. AK could not overcome both the equine heat and the inside post. As a result of dueling with Jamaican Smoke, the $330,239 bet to show on the formerly undefeated filly went up in flames as well, leading to the usual bizarre show payoffs.
The hot pace set the table for a closer, which turned out to be Emma’s Encore, paying $80 to win and $61 to show.
“She worked very well and she’d been doing very well but I was being optimistic when I picked this race,” said the legendary Allen Jerkens, the architect of so many upsets that he earned the nickname “Giant Killer,” which still embarrasses him a bit. But the table had been set, and the Hall of Famer knew it.
“[Agave Kiss] just went so fast. It’s not speed favoring today, is it? A couple of times this meet, for some reason, jockeys go head and head and I don’t know what it is. It’s so nice to be back and win one,” said the man they call “Chief.”
And with the exception of the owners of Agave Kiss and the bridge jumpers that dumped $330K into the pool, nobody at Belmont Park was unhappy when this trainer upset the Victory Ride.
“We hadn’t been doing any good at all lately, so this really helps a lot.” Maybe there’s an owner out there, like Brenda Mercer, who might send Jerkens a runner.
“I never knew the lady before and then after she won she sold a half interest to Mr. Berger. I guess he’s pretty happy now, too. I know I am.”