Mucho Macho Man won a three-way duel to the finish line by a nose to capture the 30th running of the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, North America’s richest thoroughbred race.
The six-year-old winner, who ran second in last year’s Classic, covered the 1 ¼ miles yesterday in 2:00.72, just ahead of second-place finisher Will Take Charge. Declaration of War, a European competitor making his debut on a dirt track, was a head back in third.
Mucho Macho Man doubled his lifetime earnings to nearly $5.4 million with the first-place purse of $2.75 million.
Favorite Game On Dude, setting the pace at the outset, faded to finish ninth.
Jockey Gary Stevens, 50, who came out of retirement after seven years, won his first Classic as he pushed Mucho Macho Man to the front in the 11-horse field.
“It’s just a dream come true,” Stevens said. “One thing missing from my resume was the Breeders’ Cup Classic. It’s the icing on the cake of my career.”
Stevens is the only jockey to ride in the first Breeders’ Cup at Hollywood Park in 1984 and this year’s 30th race.
Mucho Macho Man returned $10, $4.60 and $3.60 on a $2 bet, while three-year-old Will Take Charge paid $7.20 and $4.80 and four-year-old Declaration of War returned $4.80.
“I’m just so excited and very blessed to be here today,” trainer Kathy Ritvo, a heart-transplant survivor who became the first female trainer of a Classic winner, said in a televised interview. “When Gary shook his stick, I thought we had it.”
Earlier in the day, veteran jockey John Velazquez, who had been slated to ride Palace Malice in the Classic, underwent surgery to remove his spleen when he was diagnosed with internal bleeding, said his agent Angel Cordero.
The 41-year-old jockey was thrown from Secret Compass in the $2 million Juvenile Fillies when the thoroughbred fell with three furlongs remaining in the 1 1/16th-mile race. His mount, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, suffered a fractured leg and was euthanized.
Velazquez was replaced by Jose Lezcano on reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan who defended his title in the $2 million Mile.
Two-year-old New Year’s Day cemented his position as the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby, the first leg of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown, when the colt overtook favorite Havana to win the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by 1¼ lengths.