When one door closed, another opened in gritty fashion for Calumet Farm's Sonic Mule in the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man Stakes.
With the six-furlong Hutcheson (G3) failing to fill this week, Sonic Mule was entered in the one-mile Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream Park as the backup plan. Plan 'B' saw the 3-year-old son of Distorted Humor deliver his 'A' game—he sat off the early pace and bravely turned back State of Honor in deep stretch to score his second stakes victory and first triumph at the eight-furlong distance. Watch Video
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Sonic Mule won back-to-back six furlong races to cap off his 2016 juvenile campaign, including a front-running score over fellow Mucho Macho Man entrants Talk Logistics and Recruiting Ready in the Dec. 10 Buffalo Man at Gulfstream.
The bay colt showed Saturday he is not a need-the-lead type, rating under jockey Javier Castellano fourth in an outside path as Recruiting Ready took the 11-horse field through an opening quarter in :23.14. Shortly after the half mile went in :45.85, Sonic Mule advanced to second and had Recruiting Ready put away coming off the final turn—only to be engaged at that point by State of Honor to his outside.
State of Honor appeared to have Sonic Mule measured in the lane, but Castellano kept getting more out of his mount and they hit the wire a head in front in a final time of 1:37.52 over a track rated fast.
"I was a little concerned how he would handle the mile. We tried to stretch him out a little bit earlier," said Pletcher, who mentioned the Feb. 4 Swale (G2) as a possible next target. "But the one thing I did feel good about was he breezed really well the other day and seemed like he was coming into any race, whatever it would be, in good form. It was just a matter of working out a trip and seeing if he could get the distance."
Sonic Mule had raced over a mile twice previously, including a runner-up finish in the Oct. 1 Armed Forces on the turf at Gulfstream.
Sent off at 9-2 odds, Sonic Mule paid $11.40 to win. State of Honor was 1 1/4 lengths ahead of third-place finisher Talk Logistics, with Sweetontheladies fourth. Hemsworth, winner of the Nov. 4 Nashua (G2), was never in contention and was eased through the stretch but was able to walk off.
"He's a fighter, no question about it," Pletcher said of Sonic Mule. "You could tell he was getting tired and he didn't gallop out real far past the wire so I think he was giving Javier everything he had. He's shown to be that kind of horse. He's got a lot of determination and a lot of fight. He's a cool horse to be around."
Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm and purchased by Calumet for $175,000 out of the Select Sales consignment at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale, Sonic Mule broke his maiden first time out going 5 1/2 furlongs at Monmouth Park last July 15. He improves his record to four wins from seven starts with a bankroll of $186,455.