Given a last-minute chance to stretch his talent beyond sprint distances, Calumet Farm's Sonic Mule stubbornly held off a stretch-long challenge from State of Honor to win Saturday's $100,000 Mucho Macho Man for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream Park.
The sixth running of the one-mile Mucho Macho Man was the last of four stakes worth $400,000 in purses on the 11-race card, following wins by Made You Look in the $100,000 Dania Beach (G3), Wildcat Kate in the $100,000 Old Hat and Bellavais in the $100,000 Ginger Brew.
It was the third straight victory and second stakes in a row for Sonic Mule ($11.40), who trainer Todd Pletcher had planned to run in the seven-furlong Hutcheson (G3), also scheduled for Saturday, which failed to fill.
Sonic Mule, a bay son of Distorted Humor, had run twice at a mile as a 2-year-old, finishing third in the Sapling on dirt and second in the Armed Forces on the Gulfstream turf Oct. 1. He completed the distance Saturday in 1:37.52 over a fast main track.
“I was a little concerned how he would handle the mile. We tried to stretch him out a little bit earlier,” Pletcher said, “but the one thing I did feel good about was he breezed really well the other day and seemed like he was coming into any race, whatever it would be, in good form. It was just a matter of working out a trip and seeing if he could get the distance.”
Multiple graded-stakes placed Recruiting Ready broke sharply from Post 9, one spot outside of Sonic Mule, and was keen through an opening quarter-mile in 23.14 seconds, chased by Sonic Mule, Han Sense and Cavil.
Recruiting Ready was still in front after a half-mile in 45.85 as jockey Javier Castellano moved up Sonic Mule to his right flank and State of Honor began to roll into contention on the far outside. The top two sailed in tandem past the tiring leader and hit the top of the stretch together after going six furlongs in 1:11.54.
“Todd and I discussed the race a little bit. Usually, Todd doesn't say too much about the race. He told me it was up to me,” Castellano said. “We knew there was a lot of speed in the race. He put me in a good spot. We let the other horse dictate the pace and I followed the speed. It worked out great. He was motivated and encouraged to go forward when the other horse came to him. He fought all the way to the wire.”
Sonic Mule had the advantage on the inside after straightening for home with State of Honor to his right, and they began to separate from the field as they dueled down the stretch with Sonic Mule prevailing by a neck.
It was 1 ¼ lengths back to late-running Talk Logistics in third, followed by stakes winner Sweetontheladies, who entered the Mucho Macho Man 3-0 in dirt races, fourth by another 4 ¼ lengths.
“He's a fighter, no question about it. You could tell he was getting tired and he didn't gallop out real far past the wire so I think he was giving Javier everything he had,” Pletcher said. “He's shown to be that kind of horse. He's got a lot of determination and a lot of fight. He's a cool horse to be around.”
It was the second stakes win of the day for Pletcher and Castellano, who teamed up to win the Dania Beach by 2 ½ lengths with Made You Look. Pletcher now has nine stakes wins and Castellano has four at the Championship Meet, which began Dec. 3.
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