A lot of horses win races. Very few horses are remembered. In the end, it's the stories behind the horses that etch their places in our collective memories.
Besides his pretty memorable name, this year's Breeders' Cup winner, Mucho Macho Man, was also one heck of a story.
There's the fact that he was a runner-up at this event last year. That he only won by a nose. That his jockey, Gary Stevens, had never won at this event, or that his trainer, Kathy Ritvo, was the first-ever female trainer to win North America's richest horse-racing prize, the Classic.
Five other female trainers have won races at the Breeders' Cup, but never the Classic until this year.
It was especially emotional for Ritvo considering she is just days away from the five-year anniversary of receiving a heart transplant that saved her life after she was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy in 2001.
Given the close finish, it wasn't just Ritvo's heart that was pounding down the stretch.
There was some symmetry in the win for Mucho Macho Man. A year ago, the horse finished in second after failing to get around Fort Larned down the stretch. This year, it was Mucho Macho Man that was leading the pack down the stretch and was just able to hold off Will Take Charge, which wasn't quite able to live up to his name.
Like his trainer, Mucho Macho Man has dealt with health concerns, too. From Marcus Armytage of The Telegraph:
Mucho Macho Man overcame his own problems too.
He was born a lifeless heap of horseflesh with no discernable heartbeat.
His breeders tried everything to resuscitate him but, believing they had failed, gave up.
It was only then that the foal got up off the ground and cantered off.
Stevens was revived himself, coming out of retirement in January after taking seven years off. The fact that he was able to reach his ultimate goal—to win the Breeders' Cup Classic—is pretty remarkable.
He was pretty thrilled with the result, telling Jerry Bossert of the New York Daily News, “It’s unbelievable, dreams do come true. The one race I’ve been missing out of my career is the Breeders’ Cup Classic. I never expected to be in this situation. This is the ultimate feeling. It’s the icing on the cake of my career.”
Stevens ran the perfect race, holding back Mucho Macho Man early while the pack rushed off to a quick start. Around the final turn Stevens asked for the horse to make his move and he responded with aplomb, racing wide to take the lead.
Add it all up, and you have quite the memorable win for Mucho Macho Man, his connections, Stevens and Ritvo. And one heck of a payday, at that.