Mucho Macho Man, runner up in last year's $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, drew the outside post in an outstanding field of 10 in Saturday's Grade I, $250,000 Awesome Again Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles, one of five Grade I Breeders' Cup “Win and You're In” stakes to be run Saturday at Santa Anita.
The Awesome Again will serve as a steppingstone to the Grade I, $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, to be run Nov. 2 at Santa Anita.
Trained by Kathy Ritvo, Mucho Macho Man arrived at Santa Anita on Sept. 9.
“He's really smart. He's confident and he loves to train,” said Ritvo, whose husband Tim, a former jockey and trainer, is currently president of Gulfstream Park. “My husband was training 'Macho' before I did. The horse ran a great race in the Classic last year (losing by a half-length to Fort Larned following a stirring stretch battle which produced a career-best Beyer Speed figure of 116).”
Winless, with two third-place finishes this year, Mucho Macho Man was third, beaten 2 ¼ lengths, in his most recent start, the Grade I, mile and one eighth Whitney Invitational Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 3.
A 5-year-old Florida-bred by the Holy Bull stallion Macho Uno, Mucho Macho Man layed a close second throughout in last year's Classic under Mike Smith and will likely utilize his early speed from post 10 on Saturday.
He has had two works since arriving at Santa Anita, a bullet five furlong drill on Sept. 14 of 59.20, best of 58 works at the distance and another five furlong breeze in 1:01 flat Sept. 21.
Owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Mucho Macho Man has six wins, five seconds and six thirds from 21 starts, with earnings of $2,440,410.
Ridden by Edgar Prado in his last two starts, Mucho Macho Man will be ridden for the first time by Hall of Famer Gary Stevens.
Zayat Stables' Paynter, who took ill following his win in the July 2012 Haskell Invitational Stakes (Grade I), comes off a disappointing run over a sloppy surface in the Grade I Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 31. Dispatched as the 3-2 favorite, he never took to the going and was fifth and last, beaten 12 ½ lengths under Rafael Bejarano.
After narrowly escaping death due to laminitis and colitis, Paynter returned to action at Betfair Hollywood Park on June 14, crushing a classified allowance field going seven furlongs by 4 ½ lengths.
Trained by Bob Baffert, Paynter is a 4-year-old colt by Awesome Again who has four wins and three seconds from nine starts, accounting for earnings of $1,051,924. A first-out maiden winner going 5 ½ furlongs at Santa Anita on Feb. 18, 2012, look for Paynter to be on the lead or thereabouts as he returns to dry land in the Awesome Again.
Baffert will also be represented by lightly raced Take Control, who will be making his fourth career start Saturday and his first since running a close fourth in the Grade II San Diego Handicap on July 28, 2012. Owned by Kaleem Shah, Inc., the 6-year-old horse by A.P. Indy will get the services of female riding sensation Rosie Napravnik, who ships in from the East to ride a total of five horses on Saturday. Take Control has two wins from three career starts.
At age seven, Jeranimo is the elder statesman in the Awesome Again. Trained by Mike Pender, Jeranimo rallied from far off the pace to be a prompt winner of Del Mar's Grade I Eddie Read Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on turf July 20. He was subsequently a well-beaten ninth on Polytrack in the Grade I Pacific Classic Aug. 25.
A full horse by Congaree, Jeranimo will be making his first-ever start on natural dirt. His overall record stands at 36-10-6-5, with earnings of $1,401,114.
The complete field for the Awesome Again, to be run as the 10th race on an 11-race program Saturday, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Liaison, Rafael Bejarano, 119; Golden Ticket, Joe Talamo, 119; Soi Phet, Irving Orozco, 119; Jeranimo, Corey Nakatani, 124; You Know I Know, Julien Leparoux, 119; Take Control, Rosie Napravnik, 119; Paynter, Martin Garcia, 119; Chief Havoc, Garrett Gomez, 116; Summer Hit, Edwin Maldonado, 119, and Mucho Macho Man, Gary Stevens, 119.
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