Post-time favorite Mucho Macho Man sped away from the field down the stretch to win Saturday's $250,000 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
Trained by Kathy Ritvo and ridden by Gary Stevens, Mucho Macho Man stalked the pace that being set by Summer Hit and Chief Havoc. Sent off as the 8-5 favorite in the 10-horse field, Mucho Macho Man drew even with the leaders from the outside as they came around the turn.
Mucho Macho Man, owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, took command at the top of the stretch in the 1 1/8-mile stakes and drew away to a 4 1/4-length victory over 3-1 second pick Paynter.
"The race was pretty much over at the three-eighths pole," Stevens said. "He has a tremendous stride and he runs the turns really well. He's very athletic. I let him stretch himself a little at the three-eighths pole and had him pick it up again at the quarter pole."
Finishing third was 22-1 longshot Soi Phet followed by Golden Ticket, Chief Havoc, Liaison, Summer Hit, You Know I Know, Jeranimo and Take Control.
The time for the race on a fast track was 1:48.30
The Awesome Again is a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" race which gives the winning horse a guaranteed spot in the $5 million Classic on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita. Mucho Macho Man was second to Fort Larned in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic.
"They told me to get a good race in and get a good gallop out of him afterwards," noted Stevens, "which I did. This horse only has to make up a neck from last year's Breeders' Cup Classic and I think he's a bigger, stronger horse than he was last year."
The Awesome Again Stakes was the 5-year-old's first start since finishing third to Cross Traffic in the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 3. The victory was worth $150,000 and brings Mucho Macho Man's career earnings to $2,590,410 with seven wins in 22 starts.
This was the 5-year-old's first win of 2013. He was pulled up during the Florida Sunshine Millions Classic when he failed to handle a sloppy Gulfstream Park track in January. He came back to finish third in a minor stakes at Belmont Park in June.
Mucho Macho Man returned $5.20, $3.20 and $2.80. Paynter paid $4.40 and $4.00, and Soi Phet paid $12.60 to show.