Just how macho can Macho Again be?
Owner West Point Thoroughbreds hopes the answer will be plenty today in the Grade I $1-million Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
Macho Again, a Florida-bred son of Macho Uno, can become the fourth consecutive horse to win the Jim Dandy Stakes and Travers. Known as the Mid-Summer Derby, the 11/4-mile Travers (Race 11, 5:45 p.m.) will be on ESPN from Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
"I'd like to think of this group of 3-year-olds, besides Big Brown, a couple of horses are starting to improve and put their games together," said Terry Finley, West Point founder and president. "I think we're one of those horses."
This is the 139th edition of the Travers, the nation's oldest thoroughbred race. Twelve 3-year-olds make up the largest field since 1990, with nine having graded-stakes victories. Pyro, second to Macho Again in the Grade II Jim Dandy, is the early 7-2 favorite, with Macho Again at 6-1.
Like Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown, Macho Again was broken and trained in Ocala. He was developed at Crupi's New Castle Farm, 8 miles from Eddie Woods Training Center, where Big Brown worked. They have raced against each other twice: Macho Again ran second in the Preakness and placed fifth in the Belmont, where Big Brown finished last.
"He's the kind of horse that you don't want to get into a street fight with, because he's going to come back at you," Finley said. "I'm not sure he's the most talented horse in the land, but I know when you put everything together, he's the total package. …
"If we jump up and run well, there's a lot of interesting possibilities, one of which is getting another shot at Big Brown."
That meeting could come in the Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., which has a synthetic track. Macho Again has tried that surface twice, finishing seventh both times.
"Being hopeful sounds good to me," trainer Dallas Stewart said. "But we really haven't discussed it much. We would love to have a really good 4-year-old. He still has some developing to do, and we think his best race is going to be ahead of him."
Julien Leparoux will ride Macho Again, whose paternal grandsire, Holy Bull, won the 1994 Travers.
More horses: Tampa Bay Downs graduate Gentleman James faces 10 3-year-old colts in the Grade I $250,000 King's Bishop Stakes (Race 10, 5:10) on the Travers undercard. … Ginger Punch won the $400,000 Personal Ensign Stakes for fillies and mares by a nose at Saratoga.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.