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Mar 07, 2014

Leading horses converge in 77th Santa Anita Handicap


Arcadia, CA ( - Saturday's 77th $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap has attracted eight of the best older thoroughbreds in America, including Breeders' Cup Classic champ Mucho Macho Man, defending winner Game On Dude and Eclipse Award winner Will Take Charge.

Trained by Kathy Ritvo, Mucho Macho Man has been made the 9-5 morning line favorite for the 1 1/4-mile Big 'Cap. Game On Dude, who also won the race in 2011, is the 5-2 third pick with Breeders' Cup Classic runner-up Will Take Charge the 2-1 second choice.

Mucho Macho Man will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens from post 2. Stevens has guided the 6-year-old through wins in last year's Classic and Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita, as well as the Florida Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 18.

"I don't even want to think about the other side of it," Stevens said. "I'm focused on the positive of what I'm expecting and what can be accomplished this year. This is just the second leg of a big plan that Mucho Macho Man's team had."

Owned by Reeves Thoroughbreds and Stronach Stable, Mucho Macho Man won the Sunshine Classic by 14 lengths one year after failing to finish the race. His first race at Santa Anita came in the 2012 Breeders' Cup Classic, in which he finished second behind Fort Larned.

The 6-year-old has earned $5.58 million in 24 starts with nine victories.

Trained by Bob Baffert, Game On Dude retains the services of Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, with the pair breaking from post 7. Smith guided Game On Dude to a 7 3/4 length victory in the 2013 Big 'Cap.

The 7-year-old gelding, owned in part by Joe Torre, is currently in the midst of a three-race losing streak. He finished ninth to Mucho Macho Man in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic as the 17-10 favorite and was a head back in second to Will Take Charge in last November's Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. The gelding began his 2014 season with a fifth in the San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita.

Game On Dude has won half of his 30 career starts for better than $5.7 million.

Will Take Charge, last year's champion 3-year-old colt, will start from the inside post with Luis Saez again in the saddle.

Trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, the 4-year-old colt began the year with a second-place finish in the Donn Handicap last month at Gulfstream Park.

Owned by Willis Horton and Three Chimneys Farm, Will Take Charge suffered a nose loss to Mucho Macho Man in the Breeders' Cup Classic after winning the Travers and Pennsylvania Derby. The colt won last year's Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park and was second in the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga.

Will Take Charge has six wins in 16 career starts for more than $3.1 million.

From the rail out, here is the field for the 2014 Santa Anita Handicap: Will Take Charge, Luis Saez; Mucho Macho Man, Gary Stevens; Blingo, Aaron Gryder; Imperative, Kent Desormeaux; Rousing Sermon, Rafael Bejarano; American Blend, Joe Talamo; Game On Dude, Mike Smith; Hear the Ghost, Joel Rosario.

The Big 'Cap will be televised as part of The Jockey Club Tour on FOX with an approximate post time of 7 p.m. ET.

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