It isn’t often when trainer Tom Albertrani sends a horse yet to break his maiden into a graded stake, but the promising colt Hemsworth convinced him otherwise. The resulting 9 ½-length romp in the Nashua (G2) Nov. 4 at Aqueduct confirmed Albertrani’s faith and left him excited about what might be in store during the Bernardini colt’s 3-year-old season.
Two months later, Godolphin Racing’s Hemsworth is set to kick off his sophomore campaign in Saturday’s $ 100,000 Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream Park. The sixth running of the one-mile Mucho Macho Man for 3-year-olds is one of four stakes, two graded, worth $ 400,000 in purse earnings on the 11-race program.
Among Gulfstream’s series of sophomore stakes leading up to the $ 1 million Florida Derby (G1) April 1, the Mucho Macho Man is joined by the $ 100,000 Dania Beach (G3) at 7 ½ furlongs on turf, also for 3-year-olds; and the $ 100,000 Old Hat (G3) at six furlongs and $ 100,000 Ginger Brew at 7 ½ furlongs on grass, each for 3-year-old fillies.
Hemsworth didn’t get started until late July and ran fourth in his first two career starts, finishing behind horses such as subsequent Grade 3 winner Theory and Bonus Points, who would go on to be multiple graded-stakes placed, including runner-up in the one-mile Jerome (G2) Jan. 2. He broke on the lead in the Nashua, also at one mile, and extended his advantage at each call to win in front-running fashion over his three rivals.
“He really ran huge. I know it was a small field, but we always thought this horse had a lot of potential. I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think otherwise to run him in a Grade 2 as a maiden,” Albertrani said. “But the way the race was shaping up it was certainly worth the risk of running him in there. We decided to take our chance and see if he would run well and he really showed that he did.
“When you see one run like that, you start getting a little pumped up and start getting a little excited about having a nice horse in the barn like that,” he added. “Just the way he ran, he really did it quite easily not knowing how strong a field he really beat that day. It was just the way he did it that gave us a lot of hope thinking that he could be a nice horse for us this coming year.”
Being a son of multiple Grade 1 winner Bernardini, who Albertrani trained to the 3-year-old male championship of 2006, Hemsworth arrived with high expectations and didn’t disappoint, from his looks to his training.
“Right from the start when he first came to us, we always thought he was a horse that had a lot of potential,” he said. “Conformation-wise he’s a beautiful looking horse and in his works he always put out more than the others, and the fact that he’s by Bernardini didn’t hurt. There’s some good qualifications there.”
Hemsworth drew the far outside post in a field of 11 and will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione at highweight of 122 pounds.
“The first time he ran he made a big move late and we thought once we stretched him out he would just have one late run in him, but the last time he ran he did it on the lead,” Albertrani said. “Right now I think we’re still learning a lot about him from race to race, being that he only ran three times and the last race was a really small field.
“I think there’s still a lot of potential and a lot of maturing still left there. Hopefully he’ll continue to do well,” he added. “This race would be the next progression. Hopefully he’ll start this year where he left off last year and make it to the Derby trail, maybe.”
Sagamore Farm’s multiple Grade 3-placed Recruiting Ready ended his juvenile campaign running third in the 1 1/16-mile Iroquois (G3) at Churchill and six-furlong Buffalo Man Dec. 10 at Gulfstream, each over off tracks.
Recruiting Ready was a 10 ¼-length debut winner last May at Pimlico, ran second to Classic Empire in the Bashford Manor (G3) and finished second by a length to Gunnevera in the Saratoga Special (G2) before being disqualified to fourth for interference with Sonic Mule.
“In both performances [in the Iroquois and Buffalo Man] he didn’t have that kick that he had in his previous races,” trainer Horacio DePaz said. “The jocks came back both times and said he felt fine but just didn’t take off with them on the turn. Obviously, I’m leaning toward him not liking an off track.”
Sonic Mule, trained by Todd Pletcher for Calumet Farm, has won two straight races including the Buffalo Man, his first stakes victory. Promoted to third in the Saratoga Special, the Distorted Humor colt was third in the Sapling on dirt and second in the Armed Forces on turf, both at one mile.
“He’s training really well. His last race was really good,” Pletcher said. “He’s a pretty versatile horse. He’s done a little bit of everything.”
Leonard Green’s Even Thunder also enters the Mucho Macho Man on a two-race win streak, both in stakes. Purchased privately after his victory in the Shakopee Juvenile Stakes Sept. 17 at Canterbury Park, the gelded son of Even the Score won at first asking for his new connections in the King’s Swan Stakes Dec. 2 at Aqueduct.
The Mucho Macho Man will be Even Thunder’s first race beyond the six furlongs he raced in each of his past two starts. He worked twice late last month for trainer Joe Orseno at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County.
“The plan was to stretch him out. We bought him because we thought he was a 2-year-old that wanted to go long,” Orseno said. “The next race in New York would have been two turns and I just believe that I’d rather run him a one-turn mile and see that he handles that and see that he wants to go long and then we’ll map out some sort of career for him.”
Besides Hemsworth, Godolphin will have another Mucho Macho Man contender in Cavil, an Exclusive Quality gelding making his stakes debut. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, he was off the board in his Oct. 3 debut going seven furlongs on turf, then went gate to wire to win by 5 ½ lengths in an off-the-turf one-mile maiden event Dec. 2 at Aqueduct.
“We weren’t sure if he was dirt or turf, and he won easy and was impressive. We shipped him down here and pointing for the Mucho Macho Man,” McLaughlin said. “He needs racing and we’re learning about him and just how good he is. It’s going to be tough going from a maiden to a stake but he timing is good for him and we hope that he’s good enough.”
Rounding out the field are Iowa Cradle Stakes winner Han Sense, second in the Nashua and Kentucky Jockey Club (G2); Sweetontheladies, winner of the Juvenile Sprint Nov. 12 at Gulfstream Park West and unbeaten in three dirt starts; stakes-placed Talk Logistics and State of Honor; and maiden winners Perro Rojo and Skyler’s Scramjet.
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