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Mucho Macho Man (right) crosses the finish line ahead of Declaration of War, riden by Joseph O'Brien to win the Breeders' Cup Classic during the 2013 Breeders' Cup World Championshipson November 2, 2013

Mucho Macho Man (right) was a fairytale winner at the Breeders' Cup

  PICTURE: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images  

Fairytale win for Mucho Macho Man in Classic

A THOUSAND screenwriters struggled for inspiration in front of a thousand blank laptops in the Hollywood Hills on Saturday. If they had switched on the TV, or driven across town, they'd have found a story screaming to be retold.

Set against a backdrop of the beautiful San Gabriel mountains, cast red by the setting sun, Mucho Macho Man secured a perfect Hollywood ending to a heart-warming tale by landing America's richest race, the Breeders' Cup Classic.

It is a story with longer odds than the Richard Dreyfuss punting epic Let It Ride, with a plot as inconceivable as the talking zebra who tackles thoroughbreds in Racing Stripes. Like Champions with razzmatazz, or Secretariat with a workable back-story.

The story of Mucho Macho Man has the makings of a feature as enduring as the Marx Brothers classic A Day At The Races (without the slapstick) or National Velvet (if you exchange a very young girl jockey for a very old granddad jockey).

Many sporting biopics are made for the wrong reasons, ranking high on sporting prowess and falling short on content, but in Mucho Macho Man we have both the steel and the spiel.

On Saturday the son of Macho Uno lifted one of the most coveted prizes in international racing, but the horse, trainer Kathy Ritvo and jockey Gary Stevens had all been written off earlier in their careers.

Indeed, a little over five years ago it looked unlikely that any one of this trio of resurgent heroes would contest a Breeders' Cup.

Stevens had been retired for seven years before he returned to the saddle this year. An ex-actor and grandfather, he thanked Ritvo after the race for: "making an old man very happy".

Ritvo was told five years ago that if they hadn't found a heart donor when they did she may have had just weeks to live. They found a donor, she survived the transplant and returned to her horses.

For Stevens it was his first Breeders' Cup Classic success at the age of 50, for Ritvo the success marked her as the first woman to train a winner of the Classic - and the unlikely duo did it with a horse who had been thought dead at birth.

Take that Hollywood.

Although the story in it's entirety is as unlikely as Santa training Rudolf to win the Kentucky Derby ridden by Elvis, there was an element of inevitability about Mucho Macho Man's latest victory.

After winning the Awesome Again Stakes his credentials were highlighted in World Class (Sept 30), where readers were advised to 'back the fairytale' at 10-1.

The colt probably always had the class to win Grade 1s, but being a late foal he was behind his contemporaries earlier in his career, when he managed to contest all three triple crown races before his third birthday.

As a gross horse he only completed his journey to maturity at the end of last season, when he finished a close second in the Breeders' Cup Classic despite a wide trip which saw him run 31-feet further than the winner.

On Saturday he returned with a great chance to go one better. He had the pace, the ideal racing style, the form in the book, a penchant for the course and he was peaking just at the right time.

The soft-hearts and the bet-wells were all rooting for him on the weekend. The first group were willing him to win, the second knew there was a very good chance he would. And he did.

With the second and third finishing within a neck this was not as good a performance as he managed in last year's Classic, or in the Awesome Again on his previous start, but this was the win that mattered; the one that made move magic a reality.

Mucho Macho Man posted an RPR of 125 for his narrow verdict over Will Take Charge with Irish raider Declaration Of War in third.

With the leading players below their best the Classic made little impact on the global top lists, although there was an important change to the turf list after the Breeders' Cup Mile.

As with Mucho Macho Man in the Classic, Wise Dan (121+) was not at his best when winning the Mile.

He didn't break well, he raced further down the field than he normally does and was caught wide throughout. The red-hot pace, however, allowed him to get to the lead in the final 50 yards to defeat Za Approval by three-quarters of a length.

A winning RPR of 121+ is one of his lowest ratings of the year, but it didn't matter. Again, it was all about winning, no matter how. And as far as Wise Dan's legacy is concerned the smart run of Za Approval was far more important.

Za Approval posted a career best RPR of 119 in the Mile. That run showed precisely what the runner-up can do at his very best and it allowed us to retrospectively raise the Woodbine Mile, also won by Wise Dan.

Wise Dan's Woodbine Mile figure now stands at 130. It's a standout in his career, but it was bound to be - Woodbine is the straightest track with the longest straight he ever encounters. It is only there that he gets the chance to stride out and pull clear of his rivals.

On Saturday, as in the Woodbine Mile, and as always, the opposition was well below European Group 1 standard, with no one outside Everleigh expecting Olympic Glory to run his race round tight bends on a fast track two weeks after posting the performance of his life. But Wise Dan is so far clear of his US turf rivals that he has made it into the exclusive 130-club.

An RPR of 130 makes Wise Dan the best American turf horse in RPR history. Given the general standard of US turf horses we are unlikely to get another one up to his level for quite a while.

The Euros dominated the other turf races at the meeting. Magician (123+) beat The Fugue (117) in a tight finish to the Turf; Outstrip beat Giovanni Boldini in the Juvenile Turf; Dank (115) beat Romantica (114) in the Filly and Mare Turf and Chriselliam took the Juvenile Fillies Turf.

Notable winning performances on the dirt came from Goldencents (123) in the Dirt Mile, Beholder (123) in the Distaff and Secret Circle (119) in the Sprint.

But top of the class and story of the year by a mile was Mucho Macho Man, Kathy Ritvo and Old Man Stevens winning the Breeders' Cup Classic. Fairytale stuff.

TOP OF THE CLASS: Mucho Macho Man 125 Kathy Ritvo (US) (Breeders' Cup Classic, Santa Anita, 1m2f, 2 Nov)

TOP LIST


Name (country trained) Race Rating
1 Treve (Fr)  Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe  131T
2 Wise Dan (US) Woddbine Mile 130T
3 Toronado (GB) Sussex Stakes 129T
4 Dawn Approach (Ire) Sussex Stakes 128T
  Black Caviar (Aus)
Lightning Stakes
128T
  Fort Larned (US) Stephen Foster Hcap 128D

Game On Dude (US)
Santa Anita Hcap/Pacific Classic
128A/D
  Mucho Macho Man (US) Awesome Again 128D
  Farhh (GB) Champion Stakes
128T

Novellist (Ger) King George 128T

TOP TURF PERFORMERS


Name (country trained) Race Rating
1 Treve (Fr)
Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe  131
2 Wise Dan Woodbine Mile 130
3
Toronado (GB) Sussex Stakes 129
4 Dawn Approach (Ire) Sussex Stakes 129
  Black Caviar (Aus)
Lightning Stakes
128
  Wise Dan Woodbine Mile 128
  Farhh
Champion Stakes
128

Novellist (Ger) King George 128
 8 Olympic Glory (GB) Jacques le Marois 127
  Cirrus Des Aigle (Fr) Champion stakes 127

TOP DIRT PERFORMERS


Name (country trained) Race Rating
1
Fort Larned (US) Stephen Foster Hcap 128
  Game On Dude (US) Santa Anita Hcap 128
  Mucho Macho Man (US) Awesome Again 128
4 Ron The Greek (US) Jockey Club Gold Cup 126
5
Verrazano (US) Haskell Invitational 125
Cross Traffic (US) Whitney Invitational 125
7 Declaration Of War (Ire) Breeders' Cup Classic 124
Successful Dan (US) Whitney Invitational 124
Will Take Charge (US) Breeders' Cup Classic 124
10
Beholder (US) Breeders' Cup Distaff 123
  Goldencents (US) Breeders' Cup Distaff 123

TOP ALL-WEATHER PERFORMERS


Name (country trained) Race Rating
1 Game On Dude (US) Pacific Classic
128
2 Animal Kingdom (US) Dubai World Cup 124
3 Mental (UAE) Al Shindagha Sprint 121
4 Goldencents (US) Bing Crosby 120
  Silver Max (US) Shadwell Turf Mile 120
6 Red Cadeaux (GB) Dubai World Cup 119

African Story (UAE) Burj Nahar
119
8 Centralinteligence (US) Triple Bend Hcap 118
  Comma To The Top (US) Los Angeles Handicap 118
  Wise Dan (US) Shadwell Turf Mile 118
 
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