• Mott: Long On Value could be "sleeper" in G1 Hopeful
• With training title in sight, Pletcher reflects on 2013 meet
• Plans for Rydilluc uncertain
• Boisterous heads probables for Belmont Park's G2 Bowling Green 'Cap on opening day
Trainer Kathy Ritvo would like to see it happen on Saturday, when the 5-year-old son of Macho Uno returns to Saratoga Race Course in the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward.
Owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Mucho Macho Man is winless in three starts this year with two thirds, including the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap on August 3.
"He ran a huge race in the Whitney off his time off and an easy race back. This should be a good race for him," Ritvo said. "I hope he wins. He deserves to win a race like this."
Third in the 2011 Kentucky Derby, Mucho Macho Man has always impressed with his imposing size, standing more than 17 hands tall. He closed his 4-year-old season finishing second by a neck to To Honor and Serve in last year's Woodward, and second by a half-length to Fort Larned in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
"He's definitely matured," Ritvo said. "I think he's stopped growing, finally. He's a big, strong horse. He's huge. He's tall, and now he's filled out. I think he'll run a very good race. He's always consistent. He's doing well, and we're looking forward to running him. It should be a good race."
The absence of Fort Larned and Whitney winner Cross Traffic figure to change the pace dynamic in the Woodward, but Ritvo doesn't think it should affect Mucho Macho Man, who will be ridden for the third straight time by Hall of Famer Edgar Prado.
"I don't think it's going to change my horse's plan. Not that much affects him," Ritvo said. "I think it's still a very tough race. I'm just going to tell Edgar to ride his own race. He's just going to have to see where he breaks, and the horse will pretty much do anything he wants him to do. We're excited."
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Purchased privately by Wachtel Stable earlier this month, undefeated Long On Value will make his graded stakes debut in Monday's Grade 1, $300,000 Hopeful.
The Virginia-bred son of Value Plus brought $3,000 as a yearling at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern Fall Yearling sale last September, and has won each of his three starts. He broke his maiden on a wet-fast track in June at Delaware Park, won a 5 ½-furlong state-bred stakes on July 6 at Colonial Downs, and most recently took an overnight stake on July 29 at Delaware going 5 ½ furlongs on dirt.
Long On Value, who will be ridden in the Hopeful by Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado, has worked twice at Saratoga for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. He went a half-mile in 48.22 seconds on August 19, and five furlongs in 1:02.50, both in company over the main track.
"He's a nice, smooth-going horse," Mott said. "He works along very nicely. We like him."
Mott said Long On Value was purchased with the seven-furlong Hopeful in mind. Holder of nine career Saratoga Race Course training titles, Mott won the Hopeful in 2007 with Kinsman Stable's Majestic Warrior.
"He had a good record going for him, and [my owners] liked him and decided to buy him," Mott said. "We like the horse. He's been doing very well. He might be a bit of a sleeper in there."
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For a modern-day record 10th time, Todd Pletcher will leave Saratoga Race Course with the meet's coveted training title.
Named for legendary Hall of Famer H. Allen Jerkens, the Saratoga championship will be the fourth in a row and ninth in 12 years for Pletcher, who first won in 1998. Hall of Famer Bill Mott also has nine training titles to his credit, the last in 2007.
Entering the Spa's final weekend, Pletcher had a 12-win advantage over runner-up Chad Brown, 34-22, and his $4,065,857 in purses was nearly double that of Brown, who was second with $2,147,038.
Pletcher was also 15-for-45 with 2-year-olds at the meet and had captured 14 stakes, 10 of them graded, including the Grade 1 TVG Coaching Club American Oaks and Grade 1 Alabama with Princess of Sylmar, the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap with Cross Traffic, and the Grade 1 Foxwoods King's Bishop with Capo Bastone.
"We're very, very pleased," Pletcher said. "We've had a very good meet in terms of 2-year-olds running pretty well. Other than the Travers, I couldn't imagine it going much better."
Pletcher trained the top two contenders for Saratoga's signature race, the Grade 1, $1 million Travers, in Verrazano and Palace Malice. Favored at 8-5, Verrazano faded to seventh, while Palace Malice missed the break and trailed throughout before rallying strongly to finish fourth.
"When you have one [horse] get away badly and lose by a length behind slow fractions, you can't help but feel like one slipped away from you," said Pletcher, who won two or more races on a single card nine times at the meet, including a four-win day on August 11. The all-time leading trainer at Saratoga, as can be ascertained from available records, he needs six to reach 400 career victories at Saratoga.
"I think anytime you can come up here and win four Grade 1s, you have to be pretty happy," he said. "We've won  stakes overall, so we're really, really pleased. Hopefully, we can finish really strong, too. I couldn't have dreamed of having a better meet."
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Trainer Gary Contessa said Friday he has no immediate plans for Rydilluc, a Grade 3 winner on grass who breezed over the main track at Saratoga on Thursday.
A 3-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro, Rydilluc was timed in 49.86 seconds for four furlongs. He had three previous works over the Oklahoma training track turf, which is open for training on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
"He [worked on the dirt], only because that was the day I wanted to work him," Contessa said of Rydilluc, winner of the Grade 3 Palm Beach and the inaugural Penn Mile. "He's not a horse that has to work on the turf."
Most recently, Rydilluc was 11th, beaten 13 lengths, in the Grade 1 Secretariat at Arlington Park on August 17 after skipping the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame when it came off the Saratoga turf.
"I really felt like I had a real excuse for his race, so I just have to move on, that's all," Contessa said. "I'm not looking at [another spot]. I'm looking at maybe a little bit of a breather, maybe going to Keeneland, maybe staying [in New York] for one of those overnight stakes. I like to just show up when least expected.
"There's a nice race for him on September 8th at Belmont Park, a flat mile turf stake for 3-year-olds [$100,000 Halissee overnight stakes]. It's probably not on my agenda, but it's there."
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Racing returns to Belmont Park on Saturday, September 7, with the 55th running of the Grade 2, $250,000 Bowling Green Handicap.
Likely for the 1 ¼-mile turf race, according to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes, are Grade 1 Man o' War winner Boisterous, most recently eighth as the favorite in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational on August 17; English import Farhaan, who came from last to first in a one-mile optional claimer on August 15 in his stateside debut; John's Call stakes winner Hyper; Grade 2 Colonial Turf Cup star London Lane, sixth in the Sword Dancer last time out, and Quick Casablanca, third in the John's Call.
Royal Bench, Share Out, and Stormy Len are questionable.