Centennial Farms' Mihos rallied off the pace to make his stakes debut a winning one in Saturday's $100,000 Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream Park.
The Mucho Macho Man, the first stakes on Gulfstream's Road to the $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1), was the last of five stakes for 3-year-olds on Saturday's 11-race program.
Mihos, who was sent to post as the 5-2 second betting choice in a field of six, brought a two-race experience into the one-turn mile stakes. The son of Cairo Prince raced evenly to finish third at six furlongs in his debut at Belmont Sept. 23 before rallying to capture a six-furlong maiden special weight race Nov. 24 at Aqueduct.
“He was resolute, that's for sure. That's kind of typical of him,” trainer Jimmy Jerkens said. “The first two races, he kept coming. Even when he looked like he didn't have the best of it, he gives himself a little breather and then comes again.”
William S. Farish's Code of Honor, who went to post as the 4-5 favorite, was never a serious factor while finishing fourth, 7 ½ lengths behind the winner.
“He was going easy, but at the quarter-pole he took a deep breath and let the bridle go,” said jockey John Velazquez of the Shug McGaughey-trained colt who had won his debut at Saratoga and finished second in the Champagne (G1) at Belmont.
Mihos was rated off the pace along the backstretch as Gladiator King set fractions of 23 and 45.42 seconds, chased by Well Defined and Trophy Chaser. Code of Honor advanced leaving the backstretch with Mihos following along on his outside. Trophy Chaser took over the lead on the turn into the stretch under Leonel Reyes while Code of Honor's progress slowed, Mihos continued his drive on the far outside and gradually ran down Trophy Chaser by a neck. Garter and Tie rallied under Tyler Gaffalione to finish third, 2 ¼ lengths further back and 5 ¼ lengths ahead of Code of Honor.
Mihos ran a mile in 1:37.56 under Jose Ortiz.
“We were a little wide the whole way. We had the outside post. Code of Honor was on my inside and I tried to make a move. I tried to run with him. I thought he was the horse to beat. I thought it would take a lot of speed to catch Trophy Chaser. At the 3/8ths-pole I was targeting Code of Honor because I thought he was the horse to beat,” Ortiz said. “When we got to the 3/16ths, my horse switched leads a little late. Trophy Chaser got away from me a little bit, but when he changed leads and I hit left-handed and he gave me a great kick. He had a target in front of him and he kept coming. I felt like Trophy Chaser was backing up a little bit and getting tired.”
Jerkens was impressed with Mihos' winning stakes debut but knows the lightly raced colt is still in the leading process.
“I thought it was unfolding OK. I thought there was going to be a lively pace and I pretty much pictured him sitting right where he was,” Jerkens said. “We've just got to see what his reaction is to [taking] dirt one of these times. It was the weirdest thing. The first time he ran he got hit with a ton of it and he was down on the inside and he didn't seem like he minded it at all. Then the second time it was awful, and this time he didn't have much opportunity. You can't sacrifice your position just to do that, but it's something he's going to have to get used to. I think he will; he's good about everything else.”
The Mucho Macho Man was the first major stakes of Gulfstream's program for 3-year-olds and will be followed by the $350,000 Fasig-Tipton Holy Bull (G2) Feb. 2, the $400,000 Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth (G2) March 2, and the Florida Derby March 30.
“I don't have a schedule really in my head as far as dates and things like that, but we'll certainly look at all the usual spots down here,” Jerkens said. “I wanted to get by this first and then figure it out.”
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