Florida-based Breeders' Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man stepped off a Bob Hubbard Horse Transportation Van in Santa Anita's stable area at 5:15 p.m. PST on Sunday, in advance of a highly anticipated rematch with Classic runner-up Will Take Charge and Game On Dude in the 77th running of the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino at a mile and a quarter on March 8.
In one of the most thrilling stretch runs in Breeders' Cup history, the Kathy Ritvo-trained Mucho Macho Man, with Gary Stevens up, prevailed by a scant nose over the fast finishing Will Take Charge and Luis Saez. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, Will Take Charge went on to be voted the nation's Eclipse Award as Champion 3-year-old for 2013.
In addition to last year's Classic, “MMM” was an emphatic 4 1/4-length winner of Santa Anita's Grade I, mile and one eighth Awesome Again Stakes Sept. 28, and he was second, beaten a half length, in the 2012 Classic at Santa Anita.
In his only start since the Classic win, “MMM” demolished a group of Florida-breds by 14 lengths in the mile and one eighth Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Jan. 18.
The 6-year-old horse by Macho Uno, who is owned by Dean and Patti Reeves, and Adena Springs, worked five furlongs in 1:02.56 Saturday at Gulfstream and will have one local breeze in advance of the Big 'Cap, according to Ritvo.
Managed by Reeves Racing's Finn Green, Mucho Macho Man is in search of his fourth consecutive win and his 10th overall in what will be his 25th career start.
“Kathy (Ritvo) 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,” said Stevens, who is a four-time Big 'Cap winner. “It's truly an honor to be involved in it.”
Following his heartbreak loss in the Classic, Will Take Charge defeated two-time Big 'Cap winner Game On Dude by a head in the Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs Nov. 29, and “WTC” followed that with a second place finish as the 3-2 favorite in the Grade I Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Feb. 9.
“To have horses of the magnitude of Mucho Macho Man, Will Take Charge and Game On Dude involved in the Big 'Cap this year is extraordinary,” said Tom Ludt, Senior Vice President, Racing & Gaming, Stronach Group. “The last time we had a rematch of this magnitude was in the 1988 Big 'Cap, when Ferdinand and Alysheba got together. When you consider that Game On Dude could be going for a record-breaking third win in the race—it's just unbelievable. We want to thank all of those who have committed to running and those who are considering it. It's going to be a terrific day.”
First post time on Santa Anita Handicap Day, Saturday, March 8, will be at 12 noon. Admission gates will open at 10 a.m. For more information or to make reservations, please visit santaanita.com or call (626) 574-RACE.
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