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 Mule, Recruiting 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.
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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