Stevens Caps Comeback Year With Macho Win in Classic

by | 11.02.2013 | 8:59pm
Mucho Macho Man (right) held off Will Take Charge (left) and Declaration of War (center) to win the 2013 BC Classic

Mucho Macho Man gave Gary Stevens his first Breeders' Cup Classic victory at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, just holding off 3-year-old Will Take Charge by a nose after a thrilling stretch run before a crowd of 58,795.  Stevens, a 50-year-old Hall of Fame rider, came out of retirement earlier this year and was riding in the Classic for the 15th time. He is the only jockey to ride in the first Breeders' Cup at Hollywood Park in 1984 and the 30th this year.

European Declaration of War was a head behind Will Take Charge in third, with 2012 Classic winner Fort Larned fourth, 3 1/4 lengths farther back, and Last Gunfighter fifth in the mile and a quarter contest clocked in 2:00.72. Palace Malice was sixth, followed by Paynter and Flat Out. Favored Game On Dude, who was in the driver's seat in the Horse of the Year picture after winning his previous five races this year, bid for the lead with five-sixteenths of a mile to run but faded badly in the final quarter mile to be ninth, well beaten as the favorite for the second consecutive year. Moreno tired to be ninth and Planteur was last of the 11 runners. Ron the Greek was scratched from the race because of a quarter crack.

Mucho Macho Man, a Florida-bred 5-year-old by Macho Uno out of Ponche de Leona, by Ponche, finished second to Fort Larned in last year's Classic under another Hall of Fame jockey, Mike Smith, who was aboard Game On Dude in this year's Classic.

Moreno battled for the early lead with Fort Larned, going the opening quarter mile in :23.39 and the half in :46.36. Game On Dude was in close pursuit in third, with Mucho Macho Man fourth on the outside in the run down the backstretch and Declaration of War fifth. Six furlongs was clocked in 1:10.23.

Fort Larned took the lead briefly after reaching the far turn, but Stevens confidently Guided Mucho Macho Man to the front with a three-wide move, the mile fraction timed in 1:34.84. Declaration of War, making his first start on dirt for Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien, tried to make a race of it under the trainer's son, Joseph, but Stevens and Mucho Macho Man got the jump on them. Victory for Stevens and Mucho Macho Man seemed assured, but in the final yards Luis Saez had Will Take Charge in full flight on the outside and just missed.

“I really thought he got us – it was scary,” Dean Reeves said afterwards.

Kathy Ritvo trains the Classic winner for Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, the racing stable of of Dean and Patti Reeves of Atlanta, Ga. Mucho Macho Man was bred by John and Carole Rio of Ocala, Fla.

The outcome tilts the Horse of the Year picture toward the reigning champion, Wise Dan, who successfully defended his title in the Mile and is six for seven on the year, all of the wins on turf and three in G1 races. A victory by Game On Dude would likely have given him the title. Disappointing races by Royal Delta and Princess of Sylmar in the Distaff on Friday ended any outside hopes they had. Likewise for 3-year-olds Palace Malice and Will Take Charge, though the latter's strong second-place effort likely sewed up his title as champion 3-year-old male.

Mucho Macho Man won only one previous race this year – the G1 Awesome Again at Santa Anita in late September. He's eight for 23 lifetime and two for five this year. Is that enough to dethrone Wise Dan?

Post-race quotes:

Gary Stevens (jockey, Mucho Macho Man, 1st) – “This was a tremendous experience to win this race at my age (50). I never expected to be in this situation. This is the ultimate feeling. It's the icing on the cake of my career.”

Kathy Ritvo (trainer, Mucho Macho Man, 1st) – “I'm happier for my horse.  He deserves it. When (jockey) Gary (Stevens) waved the stick, I figured he won. He got a great trip. Gary did a fantastic job. When he used ‘Macho,' ‘Macho' showed up. He is a good horse. I'm excited.  If I didn't have the support of my family, I wouldn't be here.”

Luis Saez (jockey, Will Take Charge, 2nd) – “We had a good trip.  Every time I ride this horse he's always very steady early in the race, when you turn for home, he's a totally different horse. In the stretch, the 8 horse (Palace Malice) drifted out a bit and that forced me even wider and yes, it probably cost me the race.”

D. Wayne Lukas (trainer, Will Take Charge, 2nd) –“It's a heartbreak to lose one like that. He was after him, closed on him and did everything right.”

Did you think you had won?: “The first time by, I said no. The second time, I thought he won it. The third time they ran it by, I said, ‘No, he was second.'”

On the horse: “He's really developed into a beautiful horse and he did everything right today. It's just a heartbreak that he lost. He did everything right. The jump after the wire we got him.”

How tough are these loses?: “Tough. That one ate me up. I realize the ups and downs of it better than probably most, but those are hard to take. This is the ultimate. Other than the Derby, this is the one you want. I thought we had a shot to get it today and just came up a jump short.”

Did you think Mucho Macho Man was the one to beat? “No. I respected everybody. I thought there were five or six horses in there that you really had to watch out for. He was one, obviously. Gary is riding in a zone. I think we jump-started him in the Preakness pretty good.”

Aidan O'Brien (trainer, Declaration of War, 3rd) – “He ran a great race. He fought all the way to the wire. He was always going nicely and held his position well.  I couldn't believe how well he was going. I would like to thank my team for letting me run him here. It's a privilege to be here… and to be able to bring good horses here. Joseph (O'Brien) did everything right on the horse.”

Joseph O'Brien (jockey, Declaration of War, 3rd) – “He's run a great race. It took him about a furlong to settle and then he got into a lovely rhythm.  I had to wait a little bit for the gap to come at the head of the stretch, but he ran on really well and I have no complaints.”

Ian Wilkes (trainer, Fort Larned, 4th) – “It is emotional because it's his last race. He laid his body down today. My hat's off to Mucho Macho Man. He made a great comeback. I knew my horse would bring his A game and he did. He definitely didn't disgrace himself. He put the two speed horses away and they aren't slouches.”

Brian Hernandez Jr. (trainer, Fort Larned, 4th) – “He ran great. I had a lot of horse turning for home and after he put Game On Dude away, I still had a lot of horse. But, then here came the 6 (Mucho Macho Man).”

Chad Brown (trainer, Last Gunfighter, 5th) – “He ran great. I think that's about as good as he can run and Javier rode him well. Our plan was to sit back and let them mix it up early. We thought there would be a strong pace, and it was, then come late to get a piece of it. We weren't far off from getting fourth, really.  Fifth place is respectable. I'm proud of my horse. We'll regroup for next year.

Javier Castellano (trainer, Last Gunfighter, 5th) – “He ran a good race. He was a big longshot and I just wanted to save some ground with him and try to pick up a check. I wished he could have gotten up for fourth, but he ran a very nice race.”

Todd Pletcher (trainer, Palace Malice, 6th) – “He sort of missed the break and then he put in a good run. I'm disappointed.”

Rafael Bejarano (jockey, Palace Malice, 6th) – “I had a little problem at the break.  He broke a step slow. He didn't feel that comfortable on the track.”

Bob Baffert (trainer, Paynter, 7th and Game On Dude, 9th) – “When I saw him (Game On Dude) going real fast on the backstretch, I knew I was going to be in trouble.  Then when Mike asked him, there was nothing there. I feel bad I got beat; you always feel bad when you get beat, but I feel worse for the horse.  My other horse (Paynter) gave it his best.”

Martin Garcia (jockey, Paynter, 7th) – “It was a very tight race. I was in tight quarters a lot. When I finally got out, he tried real hard to run.”

Joel Rosario (jockey, Flat Out, 8th) – “We had a perfect trip. He just didn't fire at all.  He just didn't run his race today.”

Mike Smith (jockey, Game On Dude, 9th) – “The pace was real fast.  I didn't know what else to do.  Do I take back or not? He's a free-running horse and I already have a pretty good hold on him. I tried to ease out and see if he'd drop in a little on me and he was on it.  The crowd was screaming and he was on it then.  Gary (Stevens on winner Mucho Macho Man) was right there too.  He was in front of us a little while and then he eased back and when he did that, he knew it was the winning move. He was right there and I thought, ‘Wow, he's taking it to me quick.' He (Gary) did a great job. The point I knew my horse wasn't going to get it was on the backside when Gary came to me, I squeezed him a little to put some distance between us and I couldn't. I knew I was in trouble right then.  The weekend has been great, but I wish my two big horses (Game On Dude and Royal Delta in Friday's Distaff) would have run better.”

Ryan Moore (jockey, Planteur, 11th) – “It's a Breeders' Cup Classic. It's going to be competitive.  He actually traveled quite well in the race, but at the business end of it all, it became a little much for him. He was going well for a while, but the dirt just got in his face.”

Classic chart


  • Ida Lee

    To say this race was AWESOME doesn’t even cover it…Mucho Macho Man certainly lived up to his name…He is truly a spectacular Champion, as beautiful and talented as they come. Congratulations to all his connections. I’m sorry Game on Dude did not do well but he has nothing to prove to any of his loyal and adoring fans. He is and always will be our favorite “Dude”. And Paynter, it was wonderful just seeing how great he looked and though he came in 7th, he did beat the Dude. Just having him in the Classic was wonderful. What a warrior!!! P.S. And how about Will Take Charge…holy cow…we need to keep an eye on this beautiful giant. He was just great…

  • Karen Tracy

    Storybook. Loved it.

  • Jay Stone

    This feel good story should counter all the negative publicity this industry has endured. The powers that be should take this race and use it as a powerful tool. Kathy Ritvo’s story transcends horse racing as it is a message to anyone that faces a life threatening disease that they can return to normal. What she has and can do for those people is give them hope they may have lost. Gary Stevens has shown an athlete is still viable at any age as long as he perseveres. Luis Saez has been vindicated by a great performance. One race can do much for an industry that needs help. I’m sure some Hollywood people are already planning the movie.

  • jack


  • Lexington 3

    Congratulations to MMM and all of his connections! Nice stories…

  • murr2799

    As good of a race as ’84 and ’98, however, still couldn’t top 2010! Love that WTC and MMM were the 2 physical monsters in the field.

  • ExactaGirl

    SOOO happy for Gary and Kathy! RIGHT ON!

  • laura ban

    So happy for KATHY RITVO and Gary Stevens! Loved the moment between them in the winners circle, made me tear up! This story should be a movie without a doubt.

  • Hoops and Horses

    It was great for the sport to see Mucho Macho Man win the Classic given both the Gary Stevens story and that of Kathy Rivto. Her decision to bring MMM out west rather than run in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park paid off, as the race over the track likely proved to be the difference in this case.

    MMM’s win in the Classic in my view opens up a possibility for Beholder (who won the Distaff on Friday) to steal Horse of the Year if she were to run in the Clark Handicap (Grade 1) on Friday, November 29 at Churchill Downs and win that race. The Clark usually draws a strong enough field that a win there by Beholder would for sure clinch the three year old filly title, and if it’s a strong enough field she could easily snatch Horse of the Year with a win in the Distaff and a win over older males after that in a Grade 1 like the Clark. Beholder can also erase any doubters she’s three year old filly champion by beating three year old males on turf at 1 1/4 Miles in the Hollywood Derby (Grade 1) on December 1.

    Wise Dan’s Mile win puts him back in contention for Horse of the Year, but he would also have to win the Clark at Churchill on dirt in order to take the title in my view. MMM may be in the same position, he may need to win the Clark to be Horse of the Year.

    • Figless

      With all due respect Horse of the Year was decided when Wise Dan won the Turf, its not even close…..

      • Figless

        Should say MILE

        • Hoops and Horses

          Not if Beholder won the Clark against the boys. She does that, she steals HOY and she could force Wise Dan’s connections into a race they may not want to run him in even if regardless, Wise Dan has to likely win either the Clark or Cigar Mile if he wants to repeat as Horse of the Year.

          • Figless

            Not running a 3yo filly vs. older horses but even if she did run and did beat a mediocre group of older horses Dan would be named champ. Beholder is not in the conversation, nice filly, but not in the class of WD. The good news is it appears she will run in 2014.

  • wabstat

    I’ve never been a big Gary Stevens fans, but he deserves props for that ride. MMM had to be ridden perfectly and he was.

  • McGov

    Yeppers, even the Disney people couldn’t have written this one better.

  • Ida Lee

    There is something I forgot to mention in my previous comment and that is the ridiculous coverage of the Classic on NBC. First, the Superstars here were the horses…not Ritchie Sambora who brought up “Wild Dan” during his interview or the fool talking to Bo Derek who was drooling over her looks (yeah, we know, she’s a 10) and asked the mind blowing questions: What is that button on your jacket? To which Bo said, I’m a member of the CA Horse Racing Board and then the genius asks, so can you just go unto the track? Yeah, that is the first thought that comes to someone’s mind when talking to a member of the CHRC? Why do they turn the BC Classic into a Hollywood event? Billy Bush? Cat Sadler? Really? It was painful to watch. NBC had plenty of professional and knowledgeable horse people available..Laffit Pincay comes to mind…There I got it off my chest…

    • Nancy

      Agree with you, but that’s one of the big reasons they want it in CA. I don’t get it either, the whole broadcast was pitiful.

      • Tiznowbaby

        Minority opinion here. I liked it in the respect that it was reaching out to the non-horse racing fan and making it bright, exciting and glittery. Suck a few in that way and the horses will keep them. There wasn’t a whole lot the broadcast announcers could tell me pre-race that I didn’t already know, so I didn’t really mind that they were trying to grab non-fans or new fans. I can see, though, were others were annoyed.

        • Richard C

          This is what happens when high-priced suits and top-notch producers try to get real slick, snappy and quirky in the storylines and bits. It was worse than terrible and would have been a complete turn-off to casual sports fans checking out all the noise about “the event”.

        • nu-fan

          It seems as if you and I are in the minority on expressing our viewpoints of the NBC coverage of the BC Classic. I’m standing with my opinion on this but glad to see that I am not the only one who gives NBC a little latitude on their coverage.

        • Ida Lee

          Tiznowbaby: I’d rather watch paint drying than watch another word come out of Billy Bush’s mouth…but that aside, explain what part of this broadcast was “bright, exciting and glittery”. And Cat? Unless we expected to see Game on Dude race in a tutu and ballet slippers, what the hell was she doing reporting at the biggest and most important HORSE race of the BC? At least NBC Sport had great coverage and it was all about the horses and the event and not about faux racing “aficionados” making fools of themselves. P.S. I know some people were putting Bobby Flay down but he is a serious horse owner and has put millions into the game. He’s had a BC winner in the Marathon so I don’t include him in my rant. Plus, his huevos rancheros are the bomb!!

    • Big Red

      worst coverage of a horse race EVER!!!
      the best part was that stupid blonde when he she couldn’t remember where Saratoga Race Course was (even though she said she went there every year)

    • nu-fan

      In comparing the NBC coverage of the Breeders’ Cup Classic with that of their coverage of the Kentucky Derby, I thought that the BC Classic was far better. There seemed to be more coverage of the horses and racing rather than the hoopla that they covered in the KD. Also, it wasn’t drawn out forever with super irrelevant stuff. And, at least, Billy Bush wasn’t silly. He was focused on the race. I can’t complain of this coverage. Yes, there was some “glamour” attached but this show was aimed for the general public, which may explain–to some degree–why the silly question posed to Ms. Derek. A lot of people are probably not aware of her role in the horseracing industry. So, I give NBC a little slack. I did think that HRTV did an outstanding job on covering the rest of the races. What a team they have and with people who know horses and horseracing!

  • DawnP

    Hole-E Cow. Whatta nail biter!

  • jack

    GAME ON DUDE, VERY BAD FAVORITE, HAD not beat a horse he Faced in the B. CUP yesterday as soon he had PRESSURE ON HIM HE BACKED UP LIKE a 2k CLAIMER at LOS AL, same as last year on his HOME COURT, VISITING HOURS AT TVG TO MIDNITE TONITE

  • Richard C

    Mucho Macho Man/Stevens/Ritvo – a perfect trifecta for a stellar drive to the wire; there can be great stories when classy people reach the winner’s circle. The Dud had a season of feasting on tomato cans before the Classic, like Duane Bobick had in moving up the heavyweight ladder to face his first major test in Ken Norton…and when the heat got turned up, the former spit the bit and the latter spit out his mouthpiece.

  • nu-fan

    Just imagine had Mr. Stevens not chosen to return to racing this year. No win in the Distaff and the Classic-as well as his overall great racing season! We might all take a lesson from what he showed in his decision. How often do we miss out on opportunities that present themselves and live to regret it later? And, his professionalism!!! No complaining regarding the stewards’ decision regarding the outcome of the race with She’s a Tiger. Just went back to work and focused on his later races and the HUGE win of the Classic. Have to also say that Will Take Charge and Declaration of War ran a really great race. Exciting win.

  • Beach

    Like others here, I was riding quite a wave when Gary Stevens and Mucho Macho Man won that hard-fought Classic. Kudos also to the connections of Will Take Charge and Declaration of War; the race could have gone any which way. Please also give due credit to the miraculous and talented Joseph O’Brien–how many people can really manage to ride like that at SIX FEET TALL?!! Um, like none.

    Trust me, I feel the euphoria too, but please give credit and sympathy also to the connections of Secret Compass and prayers that Johnny V will be ok. I believe the Bafferts had at least 2 Cup wins but they were also in tears most of the day, probably because of the loss of that beautiful young filly. I heard Mr. Baffert even tell one of the reporters, after a WIN, no less, “Some days I just don’t know if I can take this game; a win now but earlier I had to lose my filly”, before he broke up and had to walk away. Those losses are devastating. I love the successes, but let us not forget the fallen, too. RIP Secret Compass and condolences/thoughts for her connections…

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