Macho renews rivalry with old foe in Big 'Cap.
Local hero Game On Dude, who has won two of the last three runnings of the race known colloquially as the Big 'Cap, could be reduced to playing third fiddle in what promises to be a titanic encounter.
The Kathy Ritvo-trained Mucho Macho Man shoulders top weight of 8st 12lb - just 1lb more than Travers Stakes winner Will Take Charge, whose late rally failed by a nose to catch his rival in an unforgettable climax to North America's most valuable race over course and distance four months ago.
Trained by D Wayne Lukas, Will Take Charge defeated his elders in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs four weeks after the Breeders' Cup en route to being named the US champion three-year-old - but he was beaten on his seasonal debut when failing to concede 6lb to Lea, who broke the Gulfstream Park track record in a sizzling effort in the Donn Handicap.
Mucho Macho Man made no mistake in his warm-up, scoring by 14 lengths in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream. The six-year-old loves Santa Anita, where his only defeat came in a narrow reverse to Fort Larned in the 2012 Breeders' Cup Classic. He has also formed a famous partnership with Gary Stevens, who is unbeaten in three outings on him.
"Everybody rants and raves about how much he loves this racetrack," said Stevens. "I'm not taking anything lightly but I know what the horse is capable of. I'm going to ride him with a lot of confidence, like he's the best horse in the world."
Will Take Charge and Mucho Macho Man are drawn eyeballto-eyeball in gates one and two, with Game On Dude drawn seven of eight. He is bidding to become the first three-time winner of the race after scoring in 2011 and 2013; he missed it in 2012 when he went to Dubai.
Elsewhere on a big day in the States, Ribblesdale Stakes winner Riposte will be strongly fancied to score in Grade 3 company at Tampa Bay (9.25pm) after enduring a troubled passage at Gulfstream last month on her US debut. Royal Ascot target Bobby's Kitten returns to action in an allowance race at the Florida venue, while Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice heads the Gulfstream Park Handicap (10.10pm).
VVSANTA Anita card, page 44 VVTHE Markets, page 36
Mucho Macho Man (right) edges out Will Take Charge (left) in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita last November