by J. Keeler Johnson
Mucho Unusual may have shown early potential on dirt, placing in two stakes races, but grass is where she truly thrives. On Saturday evening, the daughter of Mucho Macho Man brought her record on turf to a perfect 3-for-3 with a gutsy victory in the $200,000 San Clemente Stakes (G2).
Under a patient ride from jockey Joel Rosario, Mucho Unusual—normally a speedy filly—dropped back to tenth and last place early on while longshots Devils Dance and Harmless vied for the lead through quick fractions of :22.72, :46.50, and 1:10.84, sufficient to spread the field out over nearly eight lengths after the opening half-mile.
But as the pace slowed down around the far turn, the field began to bunch up, and Rosario was faced with a tough decision—hope for a way through, or swing to the extreme outside?
Rosario elected to take the scenic route around the course, a wise decision given the powerful kick Mucho Unusual displayed down the homestretch. Longshot Apache Princess made the first move, sweeping into contention around the far turn to seize a clear lead at the eighth pole, but Mucho Unusual charged ferociously through the final furlong to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and cross the wire a neck in front.
“She just didn’t show me a lot [of speed] early, so I let her do her thing away from there,” explained Rosario. “On the backside, she wanted to go, so we went after them. Turning for home I thought about going down inside, but she was making up ground and I didn’t want to chance it. She had that nice acceleration through the stretch and we got it.”
By sprinting the final quarter-mile in approximately :23 1/5, Mucho Unusual recorded a final time of 1:34.66 for the one-mile distance. Apache Princess held second by three-quarters of a length over late-running Over Emphasize in a race dominated by deep closers.
Bred and owned by George Krikorian, Mucho Unusual brought her career record to 7-4-2-0, with earnings of $372,680. After winning the February 18 California Cup Oaks in her turf debut, Mucho Unusual followed up with an allowance victory at Santa Anita before her success in the San Clemente.
“I left it [race tactics] up to Joel, but I was just as surprised as everybody else that she was as far back as she was,” said winning trainer Tim Yakteen. “She was doing really well and I conveyed that to Joel in the paddock. We’re really pleased with her effort. Things have been going according to plan and this is one industry where that doesn’t often happen. The prep race at Santa Anita set her up well for this and this should set her up well for the [Del Mar] Oaks.”