Thursday Notes: The 'Big' Horse, Mucho Macho Man, is Back in Town

Mucho Macho Man, hero of Fair Grounds’ $350,000 Risen Star Stakes a little less than five weeks ago and the strong favorite for Saturday’s $1 million Louisiana Derby, got back in town Wednesday from his Gulfstream Park home base and galloped once around the Crescent City oval Thursday morning immediately after the track renovation break.

The bay horse is big. Very big. Huge. Grande. Super-sized. Seventeen hands and growing, leaving the gathering of his multiple owners and attending media visitors somewhat awed when the colt emerged from his stall in Barn 6 and headed toward the track under regular exercise rider Mike Heera.

“I think he looks a lot bigger now than he did when he was here for the Risen Star,” said Dean Reeves of Reeves Thoroughbred Racing with a nod of agreement from co-owner Jim Culver of Dream Team One Racing Stable.

Trainer Kathy Ritvo, who accompanied the 2011 Triple Crown candidate on the equine charter flight from South Florida to New Orleans on Wednesday, was quick to agree.

“Sometimes, when  I come to the barn in the mornings this winter, I think he’s gotten bigger overnight,” Ritvo said. “But now, he’s starting to fill out, too. He reminds me of a teenage athlete, a  little leggy and gangly at first but quickly growing into his body.”

Ritvo, as it is increasingly known, is a 41-year-old mother of two who is a big story herself, doing very well in her own readjusting body following a heart transplant in the fall of 2008.

“I’ve never had a horse as smart as this one is,” said Ritvo. “Did you notice how when they were stretching his front legs when he was still in the stall he stretched his back legs on his own, just like an athlete would do? He knows how to take care of himself.

“He’s ready to run,” Ritvo added as she schooled the horse in the Fair Grounds paddock following the gallop. “I’m sure he remembers he’s back where he was last month and I think he knows what he’s supposed to do very shortly.”

How does an owner feel in the last days before a big race like Saturday’s Louisiana Derby – centerpiece event of the local racing season and shortly to become the richest Thoroughbred race ever run in New Orleans?

“I think inside you get a little anxious,” said Reeves, “but in this business you also have to have some quiet confidence in your horse. We just hope for a good race Saturday and hope we are fortunate enough to win it.”

SATURDAY’S FAIR GROUNDS OAKS – THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF IT – Tourmaline is a crystal boron silicate mineral that is classified as a semi-precious stone.

Tourmaline the horse is a 3-year-old filly who is dismissed as the 20-1 longest shot in the morning line for Saturday’s $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks and has made only two starts, both at six furlongs and five months apart. Did her owners Mike Walker and Wayne Ukens find a gem when the picked her out?

“She’s a big, tall, long, leggy filly who’s a good mover and we think she’ll go long,” said trainer Lon Wiggins, son of Hal Wiggins, who trained 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra to win the 2009 Fair Grounds Oaks and then go on to win the Kentucky Oaks. “She gallops that way and she’s made that way. She ran real well in her first start last September and we took her to Keeneland and Churchill, but she developed a little shin problem there and we had to stop on her. But then she came back (Feb. 27) at Tampa after that long layoff and just missed by a half-length and was closing fast at the wire.

“Her owners are just a couple of good ole boys from Oklahoma and they want to see where the horse takes them,” Wiggins said. “Lucky for me, they asked me to train her for them. She had a nice work at Tampa (four furlongs in 50.40) on Monday and then I brought her up here.”

Wiggins, along with his now-retired father and the rest of the Wiggins family, are all in New Orleans to attend Rachel Alexandra’s induction into the Fair Grounds Hall of Fame Thursday evening.

Trainer Steve Margolis, who will saddle Gold Square’s Little Miss Holly as well as Thoroughbred Futures Racing II’s Switching Gears in Saturday’s Fair Grounds Oaks, reported during training hours Thursday morning that all was well with the pair.

“I like the way both my fillies are doing right now,” said Margolis. “It looks like Josie Carroll’s horse (Donver Stable’s Inglorious is the one to beat – and she looks tough – but I’ve got Edgar Prado to ride Little Miss Holly and Shaun Bridgmohan ride Switching Gears for me after he won with her in her last start.”

REMINDER:  SPECIAL 12:10 P.M. EARLY POST TIMES SATURDAY AND SUNDAY – Fair Grounds guests and fans of Fair Grounds simulcast signal are reminded that there will be a special early post time of 12:10 p.m. in effect for Saturday’s Louisiana Derby Day program as well for Sunday’s 13-race card as the closing day of the 2010-2011 Fair Grounds racing season.

Fair Grounds' regular 12:40 p.m. post time will be observed Friday.