Mucho Gusto Much the Best in Affirmed Stakes

Courtesy of the BloodHorse Mucho Gusto wins the Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita Park
Mucho Gusto wins the Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita Park

Benoit Photo

Mucho Gusto Much the Best in Affirmed Stakes

Son of Mucho Macho Man took the Lazaro Barrera (G3) last out.

Michael Lund Petersen’s Mucho Gusto drove past rivals to score a second straight graded stakes win June 16 in the $100,000 Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita Park.

The win marked the fourth graded victory for the son of Mucho Macho Man , who entered the 1 1/16-mile test off a 3 1/4-length win in the May 18 Lazaro Barerra Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

Breaking well from post 6 under jockey Joe Talamo, Mucho Gusto settled in fourth of the six-horse field after the break, as Visitant took over to lead by a half-length through the first half-mile in :48.92. Running three deep on the first turn, Mucho Gusto capitalized on his outside position in the far turn and made a bid to challenge.

Shaking off a late bid from Kingly, who had stalked the pace in third through much of the race while slightly rank under jockey Mario Guiterrez, Mucho Gusto inched clear under left-handed urging in the stretch and cleared his rival by 2 1/4 lengths at the wire to win in a final time of 1:45.15.

“We had a really good trip. He broke really sharp,” Talalmo said. “He was just full of run turning for home. He tries really hard. You can do whatever you want with him. He can go to the front and win, he can sit off and win, he’s a really nice horse.”

Roadster finished second, one length ahead of Visitant in third. Manhattan UpKingly, and Always Forgiven completed the order of finish.

“I thought maybe Kingly would be in the lead but he was just playing it by ear,” remarked Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. “I told Joe, ‘If we’re going to win any bigger purses we’re going to need to learn to relax instead of going out there big all the time. I think this horse is maturing. He’s a late foal and he’s getting better.

“Roadster, he was coming at the end but he’s not quite where he was. But at least it was a positive move for him forward. He needs to have a bit more weight after the (Kentucky) Derby (G1). I think Mucho, with the way he’s running now, I might take a shot at something like the ( Haskell (G1). He has speed and I could change my mind five times before then. I think it’s one of those things where we’re just happy we won.”

Bred in Kentucky by Teneri Farm and Bernardo Alvarez Calderon out of Itsagiantscauseway, Mucho Gusto was purchased by Petersen for $625,000 from the consignment of Kirkwood Stables to the 2018 Midlantic Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training. He improved his record to 5-1-1 from seven starts with $430,800 in earnings.