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Otello won the 2024 Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Will he hit the 2024 Kentucky Derby (G1) trail next?
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WinStar Farm LLC and Siena Farm’s Otello overcame traffic at the top of the stretch to capture Monday’s $150,000 Mucho Macho Man on Gulfstream Park’s New Year’s Day program with a late-surge under Luis Saez.
The Mucho Macho Man, a one-turn miles stakes for newly turned 3-year-olds, is the first stop on the Road to the Curlin Florida Derby (G1), the premier Triple Crown prep that will be renewed March 30.
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Christophe Clement-trained Otello, the 8-5 betting favorite, was making his stakes debut while coming off a debut victory at Aqueduct Nov. 24.
“He won first time out in New York, and he won well, got into a lot of trouble. The same applied today, so I guess he likes to be in trouble. But he won well, and he got out of the trouble. He was good enough to overcome it,” Clement said. “I’m not exactly sure what he beat today. I know that they liked the second horse. I’m thrilled. I don’t train too many Curlins, so it’s nice when it works out.”
Saez settled Otello on the rail behind a contested pace along the backstretch set by longshot Everdoit and pressed by Sea Streak for the first half-mile on fractions of 24.33 and 46.63 (seconds).
Approaching the stretch, when an attempt to squeeze inside a tiring Everdoit was thwarted, Saez was forced to bide his time before tipping to the outside aboard the son of Curlin in deep stretch. The homebred colt responded with an impressive kick once clear of traffic to edge First World War.
“We had a little trouble at the three-eighths, because the horse in front was going all over the place,” Saez said. “The thing with him was trying to get a clean run, and he did it pretty well.”
Otello, who prevailed by a half-length over First World War, ran a mile in 1:37.76.
First World War, a winner on turf who had finished second in his dirt debut in a Churchill Downs optional claiming allowance last time out, loomed boldly at the top of the stretch while keeping Otello locked in on the rail, but shortened stride late to finish second by a neck over Sea Streak.
Inveigled, who lacked room behind horses entering the stretch, made a mild stretch bid to finish fourth, three-quarters of a length behind Sea Streak. No More Time made a strong sweeping move on the turn into the stretch before faltering.
The next stop on the Road to the Curlin Florida Derby is the $250,000 Holy Bull (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 3, followed by the $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) at 1 1/16 miles March 2.
Clement said he would talk with WinStar’s Elliott Walden about future plans for Otello.
“He’s had two starts and he’s had plenty of schooling. We’ll see how he comes out of it. As you know, Elliott Walden is very involved, so we’ll speak with him and have a plan. We’ll enjoy this for a day or so and go from there. He’ll have to go two turns next time, obviously, the question is: where? We’ve got time to think about that.”
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