State of Honor Tries Dirt in Mucho Macho Man Stakes

State of Honor Tries Dirt in Mucho Macho Man Stakes

On Saturday, Gulfstream Park will host an exciting day of racing that includes five stakes races for three-year-olds, including the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man Stakes. The one-mile race is the first leg in Gulfstream’s series of Kentucky Derby prep races, and although it doesn’t offer any Derby qualification points, the Mucho Macho Man has nevertheless drawn a promising and competitive field of eleven horses.

Godolphin Racing holds a strong hand in this race with Cavil and Hemsworth, two lightly-raced runners that figure to start as the two favorites. Hemsworth is the more accomplished of the duo, having won the one-mile Nashua Stakes (gr. II) by 9 1/2 lengths, but Cavil was just as impressive breaking his maiden on December 2nd at Aqueduct, romping to a 5 1/2-length victory in a one-mile maiden special weight.

While it would come as no surprise if Cavil and Hemsworth run 1-2, I’m tempted to oppose both of them in this spot. For one, they benefited from ideal setups in their recent races; Cavil secured an uncontested lead in a race that was rained off the turf (resulting in six scratches), while Hemsworth got an even easier lead in the Nashua Stakes while beating just three rivals.

Furthermore, there’s a lot of speed on paper in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes, and it’s unlikely that Cavil or Hemsworth will secure an easy lead–in fact, they could face significant pace pressure from Sonic MuleRecruiting Ready, and Skyler’s Scramjet.

For these reasons, I’m going to take a shot with State of Honor, who is a bit of a wildcard since he has never raced on dirt. Trained by Mark Casse, State of Honor was so well-regarded as a two-year-old that he made his debut in a stakes race, finishing a close third in the six-furlong Victoria Stakes over the Tapeta track at Woodbine. He didn’t seem to handle a yielding turf course when finishing seventh in the Vandal Stakes a month later, and after a couple of disappointing efforts in 8.5-furlong maiden special weights on Tapeta, State of Honor cut back to seven furlongs and crushed a field of maidens by 4 3/4 lengths, showing more speed than usual to set the pace and win decisively.

With that victory under his belt, State of Honor ran a huge race in the nine-furlong Coronation Futurity at Woodbine, sprinting clear by two lengths early on before finishing second to King and His Court, who is likely to be named Canada’s champion two-year-old of 2016. Compared to his previous efforts going two turns, this was a big step forward for State of Honor.

Since that race, State of Honor has turned in a steady series of workouts at Palm Meadows, including a bullet five furlongs in 1:00 3/5 on December 17th. With a strong dirt pedigree (he’s by To Honor and Serve out of an Elusive Quality mare), I’m hopeful that State of Honor can make the transition to dirt, and with an ideal draw in post position eight, his blend of tactical speed and ability to rate just off the lead should help him secure a perfect trip in the event that a fast pace unfolds.

In addition, State of Honor will receive a nice weight break compared to Hemsworth, carrying just 116 pounds as opposed to Hemsworth’s 122. If State of Honor goes off at anywhere near his morning line odds of 15-1, I think he’s worth playing on top.

Now it’s your turn! Who do you like in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes?

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Follow J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman"):

J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, blogger, videographer, and all-around horse racing enthusiast who was drawn to the sport by Curlin's quest to become North America's richest racehorse. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He lives in Wisconsin and also writes for the blog Unlocking Winners.

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