Updated 09/01/2012 07:50 PM
The Spa Spot: To Honor and Serve takes Woodward
Mucho Macho Man and To Honor and Serve battle to the wire.
To Honor and Serve rebounded from a fourth-place finish in the Suburban Handicap to win the Grade 1 Woodward Saturday.
The Live Oak Plantation colt, ridden by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, withstood the late charge of race favorite Mucho Macho Man to win by a neck. Cease, whose rally was compromised by bumping that took place in front of him at the top of the stretch, was third.
To Honor and Serve and Mucho Macho Man hooked up in a thrilling battle to the wire in the stretch of the 1 1/8 miles race. When Mucho Macho Man, who broke poorly, made his run in the stretch it looked like he might prevail, but To Honor and Serve found a little more.
“They have raced against each other since they were 2-year-olds," trainer Bill Mott said. We’ve traded win positions and I figured it was our turn. You always wonder how he’s going to do in a dogfight, and that horse ran up to his neck and he held him.
"He ran well, although Johnny said he was kind of loafing a little on the lead when he turned for home, but he said finally the other horse ran to him and got him back in gear.”
It was to Honor and Serve's eighth win in 15 starts and the $450,000 winner's share pushed his earnings to $1,778,840. He paid $9.30 as the second choice in the wagering.
“He’s been a good horse; he’s been a Grade 1 winner," Mott said. "I mean, he won the Cigar Mile last year, and he’s competed well [at ages] 2, 3 and now 4. He’s established himself as a top handicap horse, and hopefully he’ll go on and finish the year out strong and go on to be a good sire. Hopefully, the breeders will give him a big chance with good mares and he’ll do well.”
Mott said he wasn't surprised that the Bernardini colt ran well after finishing third in the Met Mile and his seven-length loss in the Suburban on a steamy day at Belmont Park.
“I knew he had it in him," Mott said. "He’s been training well, he’s a sound horse and there’s no reason for him not to. I told my story the last time about how I thought the heat had him agitated, and he didn’t do very well in the 97 degrees that day. I think he just threw a real stinker and he did come back today and prove he was a pretty darn good horse.
“When we went into the Suburban, we were really shooting for the Whitney. I think after the result of that, I felt like our excuse was the real sultry hot weather. I made the decision to bypass it because earlier in the month it’s very hot. I figured we’d get a little break in the weather toward the end, and we have. Not only today, but during the nights, and he’s been doing very well and eating very well because he’s appreciated the better weather.”
Trainer Kathy Ritvo said her big colt could not overcome getting away last in the field of seven.
“The break cost him the race," she said. "I just didn’t want to break that bad and give the other horses a couple of lengths. He ran a good race. I was hoping he was going to catch him, but he’s a tough horse to catch. He’s a good horse, To Honor and Serve.”
Owner Charlotte Weber, trainer Bill Mott and and jockey John Velazquez