Todd Pletcher is looking towards the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park later in January after seeing Mutasaabeq showcase his talents back on a dirt track.
Mutasaabeq rewarded Pletcher’s call to return to dirt as he launched his three-year-old campaign with victory in the Mucho Macho Man at Saratoga’s main track over the weekend.
The Into Mischief colt had been impressing his trainer with his work on dirt at Pletcher’s Palm Beach Downs stable since arriving in December.
Mutasaabeq scooted to a debut win at Saratoga earlier in 2020 and that wide-margin success was enough to prompt a crack at the Runhappy Hopeful Stakes (G1), where he was third, some 12½-lengths behind runaway winner Jackie’s Warrior.
Connections opted to try their luck on turf afterwards and Mutasaabeq rewarded them with a win in the Bourbon Stakes (G2) before he was unplaced in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Keeneland in November after encountering a wide trip.
After he shipped to Florida from Keeneland, Pletcher quickly arrived at the theory that going back on the dirt would be the way to go.
“He was so impressive breaking his maiden and then got run off his feet a bit in the Hopeful,” Pletcher said.
“The main thing was that when he got (to Florida) we wanted to see how he would train on dirt. When he trained sharply we thought at this time of year, with so many opportunities on dirt for three-year-olds, we’d give it a try on dirt—and I’m glad we did.”
Mutasaabeq broke slowly in his two turf starts but there was no repeat of that in the Mucho Macho Man as he stalked pace-setting Awesome Gerry from the get-go, before Luis Saez guided him to the front at the two-furlong marker and he came home with a length-and-a-half in hand over Papetu in the $100,000 Gulfstream Park contest.
Reflecting on the win, Pletcher admits that he essentially got everything he wanted from the run.
“He broke alertly, which we wanted to see. Luis was able to put him exactly where we hoped prior to the race and then he turned up the pressure on the turn and kept finding more. It was a big effort,” Pletcher said.
“He had been training like he was ready to go and we were excited about getting him back on dirt. (The Mucho Macho Man) seemed like a logical starting point, so we were happy to see him do what he did.”
The two-turn Holy Bull Stakes (G3) back at Gulfstream Park on January 30th is deemed a ‘natural progression’ by Pletcher as he plots the next move for Mutasaabeq.
“I would think the way he broke (in The Mucho Macho Man) and given the natural speed he has, a two-turn race at Gulfstream would benefit him,” he added.