Jumping from a maiden race to a graded stakes is difficult enough, but Michael Lund Petersen’s Mucho Gusto didn’t get any breaks in the $100,000 Bob Hope Stakes (G3), either.
The Bob Baffert-trained Mucho Macho Man colt got squeezed a bit at the start of the seven-furlong dirt test Nov. 17, set a quick pace, and was still able to repel a two-pronged challenge in the turn to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
Under jockey Joe Talamo, Mucho Gusto dueled with Savagery early in the chute but established a one-length advantage in the backstretch and set fractions of :22.36 and :45.36 through a half-mile. Midway through the turn, Savagery pulled alongside the frontrunner, and last-out Sunny Slope Stakes winner Sparky Ville challenged three wide, third in the line of horses, while Extra Hope loomed behind.
Talamo sat unmoved in the saddle but went to work at the top of the lane, and Mucho Gusto dug in on the inside and never let his rivals by. Savagery couldn’t get to Mucho Gusto but gamely held off Sparky Ville for the length of the stretch and finished second by a head. Extra Hope finished fourth, another three-quarters of a length back, while Owning came in a far-back fifth to complete the order of finish.
“I’ve been very excited to ride this horse,” said Talamo, who also rode the colt in his debut victory Sept. 20 at Los Alamitos Race Course. “And after this race, I’d say I’m really impressed with him. We got sandwiched coming away from there, but he went on about his business.
“He ran well throughout. He was well within himself, with his ears up. When a horse would come to him, he’d pick it back up again. He’s trained well right from the start, and he’s showing his stuff in the afternoons.”
Mucho Gusto finished the distance in 1:23.51, slightly slower than stablemate Coliseum, who won his debut at the same distance in the first race of the day at Del Mar (1:23.13). But Mucho Gusto opened a loose lead in the backstretch and was allowed to set slower fractions against less seasoned competition.
“I lost time when he got sick, and this was a good race for him,” Baffert said of Mucho Gusto. “He’s a pretty cool horse. There’s nothing flashy about him, but he gets the job done. They went fast early, but when they came to him, he re-broke like the good ones do. I was with my assistant and I said, ‘Here’s when you find out what they’re made of.'”
Mucho Gusto became Mucho Macho Man’s first stakes winner as a sire. Bred in Kentucky by Teneri Farm and Bernardo Alvarez Calderon, out of the Giant’s Causeway mare Itsagiantcauseway, the chestnut colt now has $84,000 in earnings from his two starts. He was a $625,000 purchase by Petersen out of the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale.