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November 2, 2013
THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, of course, was Mucho Macho Man. And now we're going to ask the connections to join us up on stage. On the right we have owner, Dean Reeves, his wife, Patti, trainer Kathy Ritvo, who just had a seat. Actually, Dean, if you would, maybe you can introduce everybody who is on stage for us?
DEAN REEVES: Of course, I'm Dean Reeves, this is my wife, Patti. We also have winning jockey, Gary Stevens, of course, to his left, looking in our direction, Kathy Ritvo, as well as racing manager, Finn Green. Now, Gary, let's start with you, because we want to get the breakdown of the race. If you would, you've got a perfect position behind the speed. If you could just take us through it, please.
GARY STEVENS: He was super, super sharp today. My intention in any big race is, I don't care if you're coming from off the pace or you're laying up close, you need a good, clean break. And he left there like a quarter horse today and actually outbroke them. I could have put him on the lead, had him on the lead.
But he's so push‑button. I let him roll away from there for a 1/16 of a mile, and Moreno came up on the inside and Game on Dude on the outside and Fort Larned. We were rolling. I just slid my hands back a little bit, and he shut it down, it's exactly what I wanted him to do. I looked back to see where Will Take Charge was going into the first turn. I didn't want anybody on the outside of him.
He's a big, long striding horse, and he was powerful down the back side. He was really pretty aggressive. Not rank at all, but giving me a feel different than what I had in the Awesome Again. And we rolled into the turn, and I knew that I had Game on Dude anytime I wanted him.
Fort Larned, he fought tough coming into the stretch, but I pushed the button coming off the turn. He accelerated, and it was probably a little bit early, but it gave him a little bit of a confidence builder and booster, it gave me a confidence booster. I heard them coming. I knew they were coming, but he was super, super tough the last 16th of a mile.
The race was a mile‑and‑a‑quarter, and not a mile‑and‑a‑quarter and a stride, so it was perfect. Had I known it was that close, I probably wouldn't have celebrated. But we're not wrong very often. He had his head down. He was fully stretched out, and just a tremendous training job by Kathy and a tremendous effort from a great, great horse.
He ran huge last year. And it takes so much out of him when you have an effort like he did last year, and to come back and have an improved effort, but I think that was all their planning that had everything to do with the outcome today.
THE MODERATOR: Kathy, he did run huge in defeat last year. Now, can you tell us what you were thinking in the stretch run today?
KATHERINE RITVO: I was just hoping he got it. When I saw Gary shake his stick, I was confident. He ran a fantastic race.
THE MODERATOR: Dean, he was not the betting favorite, but perhaps the people's favorite today. We saw a lot of handmade signs out there. He's got fans all over the country if not the world. Can you talk about the reception he got coming back and how that felt and the fan support that you had at Santa Anita?
DEAN REEVES: That's what really makes this so special. He is a fan favorite. He's just a neat horse. He is easy to love, and he gives you everything he's got every time out. Gary rode just a phenomenal race. He knew what he was doing out there. And Kathy and Finn have worked on this all year long to come back and make up a half a length, and they did it today, and it's just pretty special.
But I want to introduce Mike and Laura Sivo back here. They're also partners with us in Mucho Macho Man. Anyway, it's just really special. We love this horse. There are a lot of people that get a lot of smiles every day thinking about Mucho Macho Man.
THE MODERATOR: Patti, we've talked before about the efforts that you've all gone through to make him accessible to the public and allow the people to fall in love with him. Can you talk about what's inspired you to do that, and if that leads into the reception that he got today?
PATTI REEVES: Sure, well, when it was his 3‑year‑old career and he went to the Derby. We invited fans to come along on the ride with us. We were so new in the horse racing business ourself; we wanted all the fan as long with us, and we did. We started his Facebook page and Twitter, and they just started following and coming.
One time Dean had said that Mucho Macho Man is a working‑class horse, and he is. He's Atlanta's hometown horse, and we have followers from all over the world that love him. We just appreciate the fan support so, so much.
THE MODERATOR: Finn, it sounds like after last year's Breeders' Cup Classic, you all started plotting a path here immediately. Can you talk about how early you started planning for this race and the discussions that you had last winter after the Classic?
FINN GREEN: Actually, that started in October of 2011. We had a two‑year plan for the horse, and he didn't miss a beat all of 2012, and then in the first race of this year and the Sunshine Millions we had to regroup. The horse had a virus and a bacterial infection. The race we were pointing him towards after we sent him to Fair Hill was the Met Mile. And three work outs from the Met Mile, he suffered a quarter crack; and Kathy did an unbelievable job with this horse.
Always the idea behind him was to have him race ready every race that he went in until he had that quarter crack. Then at that time we went on a third race off of the layoff plan, which was the Awesome Again. Kathy Ritvo is one of the most underrated trainers in the Thoroughbred industry.
THE MODERATOR: Perhaps not after today.
FINN GREEN: Well, she's, since I've been working with Kathy for Dean and Patti, we've had about 70 starts. She's over 17% win, 50% in the money on that, and she's done a fabulous, fabulous job.
And the Reeves, the Reeves have allowed us to do everything right for the horse. Kathy and I have gone to them, and every time that we have wanted to put the horse first, they never hesitated. Never hesitated.
PATTI REEVES: It wasn't easy.
FINN GREEN: One of the reasons that he is a media star is because I won't let anybody in the barn.
GARY STEVENS: I just wanted to add, I mean, I'm new to the team. It's only been two races, but I feel like I've been here with him from the word go. In a way, I have. I was covering for NBC and HRTV, The Risen Star in Louisiana when he was a 3‑year‑old, and I became a fan of his then. I had no idea I was going to be able to sit on his back one day.
But the communication that we've had just over the past five weeks has been unbelievable. No secrets. Questions to me, questions to them. I talked about his gameness and the blue‑collar worker and how hard he tries. One thing that I thought I had seen in some of his races is a horse that gives you everything. I don't they don't necessarily want to be hit with the stick sometimes. I tested him again in the Awesome Again, and he didn't like it. You don't know how hard it was today not to go to the whip, but he doesn't like it.
He was giving me everything that he had. Inside 16th pole when I twirled my whip and didn't hit him with it, he surged again. It was like oh, thank you, buddy. You're not going to hit me. So he's a very intelligent horse, and just a cool dude to be around.
THE MODERATOR: Gary, I promise this will be the last time I ask about the comeback, but we talked about it after the distaff yesterday and now you've won the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic. So we've got to ask, is this the culmination of your comeback year?
GARY STEVENS: Oh, absolutely. It's actually the culmination of a career. I had never won a Breeders' Cup Classic. I'd been so close so many times and I figured it just wasn't meant to be. We had talked about this in the past five weeks that maybe this was all meant to be because I'm sure enjoying this more than any victory that‑‑ I mean, I can't believe that it happened. I thought it was going to happen, but I can't believe that it did happen. It's sweet to go all these years and not have won it, and then seven years off and come back with a horse like this for these people. It's just so cool, man. It's awesome.
THE MODERATOR: Kathy, your story has been told many times as a heart transplant survivor, but we do want to know what this horse has meant to you over the past few years and just talk about what he's meant? It's been three years now that he's been a top‑class horse for you?
KATHERINE RITVO: He's been a pleasure to get up and see in the barn in the morning. I love this horse. He's fantastic. He gives us a hundred percent. He's a happy horse, intelligent. I'm just very blessed to be here. Very blessed to have met him. Very blessed to have my team, Finn, my assistant, the groom, the exercise rider, his hot‑walker. He has a whole team of people, Gary, Mr. and Mrs. Reeves, Mr. and Mrs. Sivo.
It's been an amazing, amazing trip, amazing ride. Everybody that supports us and myself, it's just‑‑ it's just like Gary said, I thought we would be here, but I still don't even know how to feel.
THE MODERATOR: Kathy or Finn, what happens now? Will we see him next year?
KATHERINE RITVO: We'll talk about it (laughing). Communication.
FINN GREEN: We'll talk about it.
PATTI REEVES: But not tonight.
FINN GREEN: The horse, obviously, is very, very good right now. We'll see how he comes out of the race. We've been having some conversations with some farms, obviously. The horse is a lovely prospect, but he's still racing sound.
We have found, and I told Gary before the race, that Macho Man was the greatest horse for him, and told him that he was the greatest rider for Mucho Macho Man.
Q. First of all, I think Gary Stevens is now "Sports Illustrated" Sportsman of the Year since 1978, since Steve Coffin as a jockey earned it, and he has earned it. This is Shoemaker‑style material. For Kathy Ritvo, how does it feel to have beaten Wayne Lukas, Aidan O'Brien, Todd Pletcher, Ian Wilkes, and on and on and on?
KATHERINE RITVO: It feels great. Very, very good.
Q. Having seen you in the '80s win some big group races in America, and I saw you in Europe. But this week at the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita, I have never seen you ride with such dedication, such vigor, such finesse. Congratulations. You must be on Cloud 9. However, all your fans know you are not one who rests on his laurels. However, here's my question: You are following Game on Dude, and you were ride all the way. It looked like you were chasing him. Did you get the feeling that you had moved a little too early, because Declaration Of War was really coming at you? And the second thing is: Given how easy you won in Awesome Again, and today's race, how much of a quantum improvement was that?
GARY STEVENS: Well, first of all, back to forward. This was an entirely different field than the Awesome Again. The Awesome Again, let's don't take anything away from it, but this was the best of the best today, prepared specifically for today's date. I actually feel that what may have looked like a premature move may have been the game winner.
When you're riding or running with other good horses on a track that's playing the way this track has been playing the last couple of days, if my horse is trying to tell me it's time to go, I'm going to go. We slipped a little‑‑ sneaked a little lead coming into the stretch that I think probably won the race. I feel like had I waited with him‑‑ he's quick from the gate, but he gets in a long rhythm, a long stride and he winds up. He doesn't sprint home. He loves to run the turns. I've noticed that.
I studied a lot of film of this horse coming into today, and as I said being a fan of his, I wanted to let him be happy going around that final turn. He was a happy camper.
I always say don't take anything away from a horse that they're giving you for free, and they gave me a free roll around the far turn. I think that actually might have been the winning move, but thank you for your comments.
Q. I've got a question for all of you here. First of all, Kathy, you've been asked this a couple times and we asked you this across the board on HRTV, if you had to describe this entire experience, the Breeders' Cup, in one word, what would it be?
KATHERINE RITVO: Thrilling today. Thrilling.
Q. Gary, same question for you. Your first Breeders' Cup Classic, if you had to sum it up in one word, would there be one?
GARY STEVENS: Unbelievable.
Q. Did Mike Smith say anything to you when you put him away?
GARY STEVENS: No, I think he was in shock how quickly and easily I went by. I'll tell you, and not to bring yesterday's news, but had a very similar feeling as what I had in the Ladies' Classic last night. About four furlongs out, I knew. And that's a pretty good feeling to have when you're racing against this caliber of horses and you're sitting on the type of horse that I was sitting on.
Q. Gary, can you just talk about this weekend in general, and as an athlete, have you felt particularly like you're in the zone or things just seem to be going your way in so many races except the DQ?
GARY STEVENS: I really haven't changed anything up from what's been going on for the past three months. I'm having a blast right now. This is not a job. This is retirement for me, believe it or not, and it's a pretty good retirement check every month (laughing). It's fun.
I'm going out there with that attitude. I don't feel any pressure. I want to make all of my connections happy, obviously, and there was a huge disappointment earlier today. A bit of what some people thought was a controversial call. I wouldn't want to be in the steward's stand today, so you go from that low.
My low wasn't about being disqualified; it was the low of the connections, the trainer and owners that lost a victory today. You know, I tried just not to let it get in my head. It was something that happened, and I had to move forward, unfortunately, for those connections. They didn't have another chance today. I had six more. I've been waiting for this last race. It seemed like forever waiting the hour when the turf mile was going on, waiting for this race. I had some good tunes playing in the jocks room and just tried to kick back and trying to be like Mucho Macho Man.
THE MODERATOR: You have to tell us what the tunes were?
GARY STEVENS: I was listening to a little Coldplay on Pandora Radio.
Q. One question and one wish, first of all to Mr.Gary Stevens, if you had any doubt after the wire about the victory despite the celebration? And one wish, how to have you next year ride on the you're guy, that would be a dream come true.
GARY STEVENS: Thank you. No, when I hit the wire, I really didn't have any doubt because, you know, I've been doing this so long and riding here at Santa Anita. I haven't been wrong too often on photos. Sometimes you have a sinking feeling.
But we were all close enough together, and I knew he had his head down. I didn't know the photo was as close as it was. But I was pretty sure that I had won. Hopefully I can go to your guy on this retirement vacation or something.
Q. They had an amazing shot after the race of Mucho prancing back to the barn very prideful. These horses that have raced several times, it sometimes seems like they understand when they've won and they know where the wire is. Do you get that feeling from Mucho?
KATHERINE RITVO: Yes, definitely. He knows he won today. He's been waiting for this race too.
Q. First of all, congratulations. The plan worked out, to all of you congratulations. Looking ahead to next year, and maybe you addressed this, do you have any idea what sort of grand plan you might have to get back here for the Classic again?
FINN GREEN: Yeah, we never talk about that to anybody (laughing)?
DEAN REEVES: This thing has really been a team effort. And I want to thank my wife, Patti, for allowing me to get into the horse racing business. It really knocked her out of some diamond earrings and a few other things. But we've had the ride of our lives.
Part of that, and the reason it's been so great, is the family and friends that have joined us along the way, and I want to thank all of them for being here and being with us all the way. They've just been fabulous. This team effort with Kathy and Finn, the Sivos and all the way down to Marcelino and the Sherringtons.
It's just been fabulous. That, to us as owners, what a thrill and what a ride. We've been so blessed to have Mucho Macho Man, and it wouldn't have been the same without Kathy and Finn and our friends and family joining us along the way. So thank you to everybody.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports