'Mas Macho' upsets Ft. Lauderdale

FT. LAUDERDALE STAKES | PURSE: $150,000 | 4-YEAR-OLDS & UP | Grade 2 | 1 1/16 MILES (TURF)

He had one horse beaten in the stretch run of the $150,000 Ft. Lauderdale Stakes Jan. 12 at Gulfstream Park, but Mucho Mas Macho kicked into gear when it mattered.

The 4-year-old son of Macho Uno closed with a rocketing late run far outside to upset the 1 1/16-mile event for older turf horses by a neck at odds of 41-1. He earned his first graded stakes score for Signal Hill Farms and trainer Henry Collazo while completing the distance in 1:40.39 under jockey Juan Leyva, beating out 19-1 shot Tiz Sardonic Joe and 4-1 Big Blue Kitten. Nikki's Sandcastle, favored at 2-1, finished fourth.

"He's getting better, like most of the Macho Uno's when they turn of age," Collazo said of the winner. "Ever since he was a 2-year-old, I've been saying, 'More distance and a little bit more maturity, the sky's the limit.'"

Leyva let the dark gray relax far at the back of a field scratched down to 10 with the absence of morning-line favorite Dominus and main track only entrant Pants On Fire, as pacesetter Fifty Proof clicked through opening fractions of :23.10 and :46.99 with moderate prompting from Quick Wit and Tiz Sardonic Joe.

Fifty Proof maintained his advantage along the rail through three-quarters in 1:10.54 and Mucho Mas Macho was still at the back of the pack, but as the field came off the turn and set down for the drive in a 1:34.45 mile, several runners bunching up near the rail made it difficult to finish with a flourish from the inside. Fifty Proof faded while Quick Wit poked a momentary head in front, with Tiz Sardonic Joe putting in a strong run and looking to be the eminent winner in his graded stakes debut.

That's when Mucho Mas Macho, closing hard from his far-back position, arrived upon the scene. The diminutive gelding caught his larger rival just in time to post victory.

"With this horse I don't have much choice," Leyva said. "I just let him fall back and at the half mile pole I started to urge him a little bit. Down the lane I just tried to get a clear path for him to run because he has a tremendous kick."

Mucho Mas Macho returned $85.20, $30.20, and $10.80, while Tiz Sardonic Joe brought $16.40 and $8 and Big Blue Kitten paid $3.80. The exacta paid $1,322.60 while a $1 trifecta was worth $5,037.20.

Nikki's Sandcastle, Quick Wit, Empire Builder, Vertiformer, Sky Blazer, Hollinger, and Fifty Proof completed the order of finish.

"Turning for home I swung him out and thought we had a shot," jockey Corey Lanerie said of his ride aboard Nikki's Sandcastle. "I don't think today was his best race, he's been running a lot, maybe he just needs a little break and we'll bring him back and go from there."

"It really was a perfect trip," trainer Eddie Kenneally remarked of the run from Tiz Sardonic Joe. "Jose Lezcano gave him a great ride. It was a step up in class today, but I thought the horse responded very well and ran a very good race."

Mucho Mas Macho was coming off a runner-up finish 1 3/4 lengths back to Twilight Eclipse at odds of 39-1 in the Nov. 24 W.L. McKnight Handicap at Calder Casino & Race Course. He had not registered a win since taking the Sept. 15 Needles Stakes at Calder by a neck. The Ft. Lauderdale victory improved his record to five wins and four seconds from 20 starts, with earnings of $227,951.

"This was a stepping stone," Collazo said. "The way I have his year planned out, we're going to go probably into the Mac Diarmida [Feb. 16], and then into the Pan American [March 23]."

Bred in Kentucky by Adena Springs out of the Star de Naskra mare A. P. Andie, Mucho Mas Macho was a $19,000 purchase at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s 2011 selected sale of 2-year-olds in training.