No matter where Mucho Macho Man races, his trainer Kathy Ritvo has fans coming over and telling her “I love your horse.”
“They like him because he is so big, and they like his name,” Ritvo said of her star 5-year-old, who on Saturday will seek a second win in a row in the $400,000 Florida Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park.
“He ran in the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup, so people know him,” she said. “He is consistent, and people like that. He runs in big races and at least hit the board every time last year.”
Gulfstream is expecting one of the biggest crowds of this season, maybe as large as 10,000, on a day when it will have its annual Florida Sunshine Millions stakes and later hold racing’s Eclipse Awards presentation.
In the Classic. most fans will probably root for Mucho Macho Man and include him in their bets.
If he wins, it will definitely be for a home team. Tim Ritvo, Kathy’s husband, is Gulfstream’s president.
The Classic is 1 1/8 miles on dirt for 4-year-olds and older that were bred in Florida.
It is one of six Florida Sunshine Millions stakes races. All of the stakes have purses of at least $150,000 and are restricted to Florida breds, 4 years old and up.
Mucho Macho Man is the likely heavy favorite in the seven-horse Classic field.
Ron the Greek, the second-place finisher in last year’s Classic, will probably be the second choice in a race that also has the multiple 2012 Calder stakes winner’s Cash Rules and Fort Loudon.
The Classic is the 10th race, with scheduled post time of 5:05 p.m.
Post time for the 11th and final race, a nonstakes, is 5:35 p.m.
From 7 p.m. to about 10 p.m., Gulfstream will hold racing’s annual Eclipse Awards presentation in the Sport of Kings Theatre on its second floor. Tickets to the event are sold out.
But Gulfstream officials expect that many fans will stay to watch on its Jumbotrons and other TVs that, starting at 6 p.m., will carry the HRTV telecast.
Trainers and owners of winning horses will be interviewed outside the theater, in an area where fans can watch live.
The Votes are in
Voting by racing writers and racing industry officials was completed early this month for 17 categories.
The sponsoring National Turf Writers Association later announced that the Horse of the Year winner will be Fort Larned, I’ll Have Another or Wise Dan.
Mucho Macho Man and Ron the Greek could place in the top 10 on many racing analysts’ lists.
Mucho Macho Man beat the late-running Ron the Greek by 1 1/2 lengths in last year’s Classic. He added a second big win on March 10, in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (Grade 2).
They ended their seasons Nov. 3 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita. Mucho Macho Man finished second by a half length to Fort Larned. Ron the Greek, trained by Bill Mott, finished fourth.
Regular jockey Mike Smith will ride Mucho Macho Man and regular jockey Jose Lezcano will ride Ron the Greek.
None of the top contenders have a history of seeking to win gate to wire.
“We’ll leave it up to Mike,” on whether to take the lead if no other horse wants it, Ritvo said.
David Fawkes, trainer of Cash Rules, said he will let jockey Luis Saez make that same decision.
If Mucho Macho Man gets a clear lead, the task could be difficult for Ron the Greek.
• Successful Song is the probable favorite in the $300,000 Distaff, at 1/8 miles on dirt. Speak Easy Gal would be a threat to go gate to wire, if trainer Marty Wolfson runs her in this race instead of the turf stakes.
• Romacaca, winner of the recent South Beach Stakes, heads the field for the $150,000 Filly and Mare Turf at 1 1/8 miles.
• Doubles Partner and Slews Answer head an eight-horse field in the $150,000 Turf, at 1 1/8 miles.
• The $150,000 Sprint, at six furlongs, has a 12-horse field that is the largest of the stakes and is deep in talent. It includes Bahamian Squall and Bernie the Maestro, who won Gulfstream sprint stakes last month.
• R Holiday Mood and Golden Mystery are morning line co-favorites for the $150,000 Fillly and Mares Sprint at six furlongs.