(Mutasaabeq wins at Keeneland / Coady Photography)

From the Gulfstream Park Media Team:

Shadwell Stable’s Mutasaabeq made a successful transition from turf back to dirt in Saturday’s $100,000 Mucho Macho Macho Man at Gulfstream Park, establishing himself as a candidate for the 2021 Triple Crown.

The Mucho Macho Man, a mile stakes for 3-year-olds that headlined an 11-race program with five stakes, was the first stop on the Road to the Florida Derby (G1).

Mutasaabeq, who debuted with a victory over Saratoga’s main track in August, was making his first start since finishing off-the-board in the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Keeneland.

“We’ve been targeting this. We’re glad he responded,” trainer Todd Pletcher said.

Mutasaabeq, the even-money favorite in a field of 10, broke well from the gate to obtain a close stalking position behind pacesetter Awesome Gerry along the backstretch. The son of Into Mischief continued to chase the pacesetter leaving the turn into the homestretch after fractions of 23.20 and 46.15 seconds for the first half-mile.  The homebred colt briefly seemed to stall on the turn but would respond to strong handling from jockey Luis Saez and draw away to a 1 ½-length victory.

“He tends to break a bit slow, so today we tried to warm him up good. When he broke, he broke sharp and we were right there,” Saez said. “At the three-eighths, I thought we were done, but I put him on the bridle again and he came back. He ran big, I never give up, I always ride till the end. When I pushed him he gave me that kick. It was a good race.”

Mutasaabeq ran a mile in 1:35.96 to win his first stakes on dirt.

“I thought he ran great. We wanted to make sure he got away from the gate cleanly – that hasn’t always been his best first step. I thought he broke pretty well today and put himself in a good spot,” Pletcher said. “Luis had to get after him a little bit on the turn and kept responding and finding more. I thought it was a big effort.”

Papetu, who won his first two starts at Gulfstream before finishing out of the money in the Saratoga Special (G2) and Hopeful (G1) at Saratoga, finished second, 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Awesome Gerry,

After winning his debut, Mutasaabeq finished a distant third in the Hopeful. Pletcher moved him to the turf for his next start, and he responded with a late-surging victory in the Bourbon (G2) at Keeneland. However, he was unable to duplicate that effort after a slow start in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

“We’ll look to try another one on dirt. I’ll talk to the team at Shadwell and come up with a plan,” Pletcher said. “I think today he showed his versatility. He’s now a stakes winner on both surfaces. It’s exciting to have one like that.”