Ron the Greek, Mucho Macho Man clash again in Sunshine Millions Classic

From today’s Gulfstream Park notes:

For all the brilliant moments Grade I winner Ron the Greek had in 2012, the son of Full Mandate began and ended his 2012 racing season on the same note – finishing being Mucho Macho Man in Classic tests.

Ron the Greek, who was second to Mucho Macho Man in last year’s Florida Sunshine Millions Classic and more than seven lengths behind him in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, takes on his budding rival again this Saturday when the two begin their respective 2013 campaigns in the $400,000 Sunshine Million Classic going 1 1/8-miles at Gulfstream Park.

Ron the Greek drew post No. 5 in the seven-horse field and will have Jose Lezcano in the irons. Mucho Macho Man will break from post No. 2 under jockey Mike Smith.

Ron the Greek blossomed after his runner-up outing in last year’s edition of the race, winning the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap and Grade I Stephen Foster for trainer Bill Mott. The six-year-old horse ended the year with three consecutive losses, including a fourth place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in which race winner Fort Loudon edged Mucho Macho Man by a half-length.

“We’re taking on a top horse in Mucho Macho Man,” said Mott. “He’s been working very well and it seems like he’s very sharp, so he’ll just have to see what happens.”

Ron the Greek’s fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic  was a better performance that it might appear. After getting off to an awkward start, the bay horse closed well on the outside over the speed-favoring track.

“He’s doing well enough. He came out of the Breeders’ Cup and had a short, brief vacation. Obviously, nothing too long or we wouldn’t be running here. He’s come back and we got a few works in him,” Mott said.

Ron the Greek may have earned a long rest, but Mott wasn’t about to give him one.

“He’s an older horse and I don’t think an extended vacation at this point in time would necessarily be the right thing for a horse like him. Sometimes it’s hard to bring them back in peak form if you’re off too long, and there was no reason to lay off for an extended period of time.,” Mott said. “He came back fine. We got him back to Florida, and he had nearly three weeks without training. He was just turned out in the paddock, and we brought him right back into full training.”