HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -- Mucho Macho Man looked a picture of health parading around the paddock between races here at Gulfstream Park on Wednesday, just minutes before his name was pulled out of the box along with only five others for Saturday's Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap.
Mucho Macho Man will face a small but select field that also includes Jackson Bend, troubled winner of the Grade 3 Hal's Hope earlier this winter, and defending Gulfstream Park Handicap champion Tackleberry, who makes his first start since the Met Mile nearly 10 months ago. Soaring Stocks was a surprise, last-minute entry from trainer Todd Pletcher. Cajun Breeze and Clean Shot round out the field.
Mucho Macho Man launched his 2012 campaign with an impressive victory over Ron the Greek in the Florida Sunshine Millions Classic, a performance that gained added luster last weekend when Ron the Greek returned to capture the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap. Mucho Macho Man will be turning back to a mile for the Gulfstream Park Handicap, a distance he has already handled nicely in the past.
Jackson Bend recovered after bobbling at the break to rally to a one-length victory going a mile in the Hal's Hope while making his first start since finishing third as the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. He will carry top weight of 122 pounds in the Gulfstream Park Handicap, two more than Mucho Macho Man and three higher than Tackleberry.
"He's got a big heart, he always shows up, and he's doing well," trainer Nick Zito said of Jackson Bend.
In contrast to the Gulfstream Park Handicap, Saturday's Grade 3 Swale lured a field of 10 3-year-olds, led by Ever So Lucky and Motor City. One horse conspicuous by his absence when entries were drawn was the undefeated Thunder Moccasin, who was expected to wheel back in the Swale off an impressive victory earlier this winter in the Grade 2 Hutcheson.
"We just ran out of time trying to get him back to the race," said Pletcher. "It was just a little close. The Bay Shore fits our program better."
The Grade 3 Bay Shore will be run April 7 at Aqueduct.
Ever So Lucky has not started since finishing second behind the undefeated Gemologist in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club. He was slated to launch his 3-year-old campaign in the Hutcheson but was scratched the morning of the race by trainer Jonathan Sheppard.
Motor City will also be making his 3-year-old debut in the Swale, having been idle since winning the Grade 3 Iroquois on Oct. 30 at Churchill Downs.
Trainer Dale Romans entered a pair, Seve and Quick Wit, for the Swale, but said he's uncertain if either would start.
"With Thunder Moccasin not running it doesn't look like there's anybody too tough in there," said Romans. "Both my horses are doing well but I'll look over the field before deciding whether to run."
Quick Wit, Trinniberg, Silver Menace, Hello Prince, Bahamian Squall, Musical Flair, and Good Morning Diva complete the field.