Todd Pletcher feels a return to dirt racing won’t be a problem for Mutasaabeq when he bids to kick-start 2021 with a victory in the Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.
Mutasaabeq is already a Grade 2 winner on turf and will revert to the dirt for the $100,000 contest, with the Mucho Macho Man – a one-mile stakes for newly turned three-year-olds – launching the 2021 Road to the Florida Derby.
Mutasaabeq announced his potential with a last-to-first sweeping move to take out the Grade 2 Bourbon in early October on his grass debut at Keeneland.
He had begun his career with an impressive Saratoga success in August, coming clear by more than four lengths to win over 5½-furlongs. He then found it tough going in the Grade 1 Hopeful at the same track before that sparkling first attempt on turf.
Pletcher hopes he’s going to prove himself equally effective on both surfaces and wants to take an early opportunity to satisfy that theory.
“I think he’s versatile like we see with most Into Mischiefs. We’ve seen them run on both surfaces,” Pletcher said. “We’d like to see him on dirt again to help clarify that.
“We’re very happy with the way he’s training. We decided to get him back on the dirt. He broke his maiden on dirt and ran a respectable third in the Hopeful, so we’ll see where we are with him.”
Luis Saez is on board for the Mucho Macho Man, with Mutasaabeq set to face a field of nine rivals.
Jirafales made a winning start to his career at Gulfstream Park West in November, surprising trainer Gustavo Delgado and connections when he overcome traffic problems to streak clear of the field in a 6½-furlong maiden special. They are now hoping to see further improvement for the move into stakes company.
“We didn’t expect him to run a race like that. We thought he might need a race. The pace helped a little bit,” said Gustavo Delgado Jr, the trainer’s son and assistant. “Since that race, he has been training very well. He’s improving from that race.”
Cristian Torres rides Jirafales and the big, imposing colt is expected to thrive when his stamina is further tested.
“He’s a huge horse. I’d say he’s almost 17 hands,” Delgado Jr said “He has this long stride. He can go all day. We think the longer he goes the better it will be for him.”
Ultimate Badger was unplaced in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill last time and will bid to bounce back, while Big Thorn seeks a hat-trick after successes at Gulfstream Park in October and November, including the Juvenile Turf most recently.
Easy Time for Mark Casse and the Dale Romans-trainer pair of Smiley Sobotka and Sittin On Go are amongst the other Mucho Macho Man contenders.