Although considered a part of trainer Bob Baffert’s “second string” of Kentucky Derby (G1) contenders behind the likes of juvenile champion Game Winner and Improbable, Mucho Gusto was top class in Saturday’s $147,351 Robert B. Lewis (G3) at Santa Anita, winning with authority over a sloppy strip under Joe Talamo.
The 3-5 favorite against four rivals, Mucho Gusto stalked pacesetting Magnificent McCool, seized control approaching the quarter pole and kicked clear when second choice Gunmetal Gray and Easy Shot made bids from the back. The winning margin was 4 3/4 lengths.
“We thought, to get to the next level, he was going to have learn to relax,” Baffert said. “Today was a good day to get him back off those horses.”
Owned by Michael Peterson, Mucho Gusto paid $3.20 after completing 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.81. Gunmetal Gray rallied for second, a half-length in front of Easy Shot. Magnificent McCool finished fourth, while longshot Kid Cantina was pulled up after going wrong down the backside and was later euthanized.
As part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, the Lewis awarded points of 10-4-2-1 to the top four finishers. Mucho Gusto increased his total to 14 with the win, four having been earned from his second-place finish to Improbable in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1). Gunmetal Gray’s total increased 18 following an earlier win in the Sham (G3) and a second in the American Pharoah (G1).
A debut winner at Los Alamitos by four lengths and a 1 1/2-length scorer of the Bob Hope (G3) at Del Mar prior to the Los Alamitos Futurity, Mucho Gusto has now bankrolled $234,000.
Bred in Kentucky by Tenari Farm and Bernardo Alvarez Calderon, Mucho Gusto was a $625,000 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic juvenile purchase. He’s by Mucho Macho Man and is the first foal produced by Itsagiantscauseway, by Giant’s Causeway. Also hailing from this family are Canadian Horse of the Year Peaks and Valleys and multiple Grade 2 winner Alternation.