Although it’s not an official Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race, Saturday’s $100,000 Mucho Macho Man Stakes nevertheless serves as the kickoff of Gulfstream Park’s winter preps for the 2020 Kentucky Derby.

The one-mile event has attracted seven starters, including the highly rated colts #2 Chance It and #4 As Seen On Tv, and both have cracked the triple-digit Brisnet Speed rating barrier. The consistent Chance It has thrown down figures of 102 and 103 in his last two starts (including a 7 ¼-length romp in the 1 1/16-mile Florida Sire In Reality Stakes), while As Seen On Tv posted a 101 for his quick victory in the 6 1/2-furlong Juvenile Sprint at Gulfstream Park West.

But here’s the problem: Chance It and As Seen On Tv prefer to race on the pace, setting up the potential for a speed duel. And they’re not alone in showcasing front-running tendencies, with In Reality runner-up #3 Smash Factor and maiden claiming winner #7 Inter Miami also having plenty of early foot. Since the Mucho Macho Man is a one-turn race with a long run down the backstretch, the early pace could be swift and contentious.

Such a scenario would be favorable to #1 South Bend. Trainer Stanley Hough was on fire at Gulfstream last winter, going 6-for-16 (38%) between December and March, and South Bend can keep Hough’s momentum going in 2020.

A son of Algorithms, who won the 2012 Holy Bull Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream, South Bend opened his career with three late-running victories on the Kentucky circuit. In his debut, he beat the future stakes-placed Kentucky Derby contender Answer In, while in the one-mile Street Sense Stakes, South Bend waited in traffic before rallying to defeat next-out graded stakes winners Silver Prospector and Shotski.

South Bend failed to replicate his best form in the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2), finishing sixth behind Silver Prospector, but he had a few excuses. He was tackling two turns for the first time while racing over an unfamiliar sloppy track, and he wound up pressing the early pace rather than settling behind runners as usual.

Wagering Analysis

South Bend should get more pace to chase while cutting back to a one-turn mile for the Mucho Macho Man, and I believe this combination will trigger a rebound. Let’s bet him to win and key him on top of an exacta with Chance It and As Seen On Tv underneath:

  • $10 win: #1 South Bend
  • $5 exacta: 1 with 2,4 ($10)

Good luck!