March 2, 2024

Tommy Macho overpowers Hal’s Hope foes

Tommy Macho and Luis Saez winning the Hal's Hope (G3) Photo by Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography

Tommy Macho clipped heels checking between horses on the far turn but would not be denied in Saturday’s $150,000 Hal’s Hope (G3) at Gulfstream Park, rallying to win going away by 5 3/4 lengths. Luis Saez was up for Todd Pletcher.

Now a three-time Grade 3 winner for owners Pail Pompa Jr. and J Stables Ltd., the 5-year-old horse has earned $548,970 from a 12-5-1-3 record. Tommy Macho was unplaced in his last two outings, stakes races at Laurel Park and Belmont last fall, but he showed his affinity for Gulfstream in the Fred Hooper (G3) three starts back, posting a 3 ¾-length victory at the same one-turn mile distance last February.

Tommy Macho figures to point toward a title defense in the March 4 Fred Hooper.

After breaking well in the Hal’s Hope, Tommy Macho settled in third as Dolphus sped forward from his rail post to show the way on a short lead through splits in :23.15 and :45.37. Bird Song was tracking the pacesetter in second, with Realm and Unbridled Outlaw also up close chasing the early action.

Tommy Macho lost a little positioning leaving the backstretch, dropping back to fifth between rivals as Saez hustled his mount entering the far turn. He then got squeezed, losing a couple of lengths before regaining momentum. Tommy Macho accelerated back into contention approaching the completion of the bend and blew past Bird Song to take the lead after straightening for home.

The son of Macho Uno rolled to the wire as much the best, stopping the teletimer in 1:35.20.

Tommy Macho was off as the 5-2 favorite among nine rivals. Bird Song, the 5-1 co-third choice, easily held second in his stakes debut, 1 ½ lengths better than 5-1 fifth choice Realm in third.

Bred in Kentucky by John Liviakis, Tommy Macho sold for $25,000 as a yearling at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October sale and is first stakes winner from the Awesome Again mare Starstream.

Hal’s Hope Quotes:

Trainer Todd Pletcher (Tommy Macho): “I’ll have to see the replay but it looked like he kind of got cut off a little bit and clipped heels and bobbled there for a second but right after that happened he got up and took off.”

“Unfortunately we had to do knee surgery on him after he won here last year so it’s almost been a year to get him back on form. His first couple of starts he seemed a little bit rusty but he’s been training better and it seems like he likes this track a lot.”

“The first start back in the Kelso they ran super-fast and he just didn’t run well that day. He was a little rusty off the layoff. Then we stretched him out to a mile and an eighth and he might not have been quite ready for that. This seemed like a logical place to come back since he won here last year. We’ve been pointing for this for a while and it’s nice to see him come over and step up.”

“Anytime you have a horse come back from a knee injury like that and have to have surgery and come back and regain form it’s fun to see and rewarding to see him come back and do well. It’s fun for us today to win two stakes with two horses winning a year apart, older horses, it’s fun for us.”

Jockey Luis Saez (Tommy Macho): “I think when he felt a little bit in the middle of horses, he felt a little intimidated, and he started to back up. That’s why the horse on the rail stole my position and I came out and I almost clipped heels. Then I hit my horse and he started running. He came back and beat them like nothing happened.”