Mach N Cheese takes aim at Yonkers open
May 03, 2019
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The betting public wasn’t optimistic about Mach N Cheese’s chances when the 4-year-old made his seasonal debut April 6 at the Meadowlands. It was the gelding’s first pari-mutuel start since he did not finish in the New York Sires Stakes Consolation for 3-year-old pacers Sept. 21 and he entered with just one qualifier March 26 at Harrah’s Philadelphia for new trainer Chris Choate.
Despite starting at odds of 28-1, Mach N Cheese won his first start after racing first-over to the half and tipping three-wide early on the final turn. He overpowered his rivals in the stretch with a :26.3 final quarter, kicking away to a 2 ¾-length score in 1:50. He surprised not only the wagering public, but his trainer as well.
“When I looked at the teletimer, I was kind of shocked," Choate said. “I only trained him a two-minute mile before I qualified him at Chester, and even the Chester qualifier impressed me a little because he was a little misbehaved over there, and he went 1:55 flat off a two-minute training mile, so he dropped 5 seconds there. Then he dropped five seconds right off the bat in his first start, so I was pretty impressed with the 1:50 mile for sure.”
Mach N Cheese had a solid sophomore campaign last year, going 6-for-21 and earning $99,741 in the barn of Rob Harmon. After a long season that included a third in the Sagamore Hill Series final, a runner-up finish in the Weiss Series Final, a victory in the Reynolds, and a NYSS win, Mach N Cheese pulled up in the NYSS consolation after breaking at the start. When he was against misbehaved in a qualifier a week later, the horse went on the shelf and owner Frank Profaci decided to make a change.
“We had a little relationship talking over the phone at the end of last year. He called to congratulate me on Western Joe, and we just talked here, talked there,” Choate remembered. “He just asked out of the blue if I would be willing to take the horse and train him down this year. I said sure. I liked him, he showed some ability at three, of course he raced against some good colts. When he went to the five-eighths last year, he showed some 1:50 miles, not winning, but pacing 50-and-change as a 3 year old is pretty impressive, so I liked him.”
Taking on Mach N Cheese doubled the size of Choate’s stable. His only other horse is Western Joe, who won the McKee Memorial on Hambletonian Day last year and has earned $510,569. Choate enjoys his work as a full-time trainer for Tom Cancelliere at Magical Acres Farm, but feels lucky to have two talented horses of his own.
“He has 15 babies and I’m on the track all day for him. I’m pretty much in charge of his babies right now,” Choate said. “He buys top-bred 2 year olds and it’s a lot of fun. He has a beautiful farm that we’re at every day to come to work at. It’s good right now.
“I only have two right now. I really can’t take any more than that and work for Tom, so I have to keep it at that, and we’ll see what the future brings,” Choate continued. “I’m very blessed to have both of these horses. They’re nice horses and to only have two horses and to have two horses like that, you’ve got to be thankful.”
Despite his trouble last fall, Mach N Cheese proved a treat to train when he came to Choate this January. Choate’s biggest obstacle proved to be earning back the trust of drivers, who heard of Mach N Cheese’s potentially dangerous reputation on the racetrack.
“In the barn he’s great, he was so easy to train down,” Choate said. “Very athletic. It took me no time to get him to the qualifiers. He’s a very good horse to be around, has a nice gait on him, he’s not a real big horse, medium sized, but he can fly.
“He gets a little crazy on the track every once in a while, very playful out there. You can see it in the post parade when the drivers get on him. That’s his only downfall,” Choate continued. “The only concern I had was getting the drivers’ confidence again. Once the drivers lose confidence when he does stupid stuff on the racetrack like that, there are a lot of drivers that don’t feel comfortable with him, and without the drivers, you’re going to have a hard time competing.
“I try to warm him up really good to take the edge off, but sometimes, it’s not enough. It worries the drivers because he goes up like he may kick, but he never does kick. That’s what the drivers worry about.”
Despite his antics, Mach N Cheese has been impressive this year. After his upset victory to start the season, he won a $29,000 overnight at Yonkers in 1:51.3 April 13 and scored again in a 4-year-old Open at the Meadowlands April 20 in 1:49.4, pacing a final quarter in :25.2.
Off these efforts, and in the absence of stakes eligibility, Mach N Cheese will step up into the $44,000 Open Handicap Pace at Yonkers Raceway this Saturday. Despite being assigned the inside in a field that includes Levy consolation winner Somewhere In LA and runner-up Pacing Major, as well as Levy standout Ideal Jimmy, Choate feels confident.
Mach N Cheese will be paired with Jim Marohn Jr. Saturday night. The reinsman has been aboard for four of the Betterthancheddar son’s previous victories, including his recent local win.
“I’m glad Jimmy is on him this week because he knows the horse better than anyone. When you put a new face on him, he kind of has a reputation and you have to explain to the drivers. But Jimmy knows him, gets along with him great,” Choate said.
“You have to love the rail at Yonkers; I know he was assigned the rail, but it does help. There are some tough ones in there, but I think he’s going to hold his own for sure,” Choate said. “I think if we get away close, he’s going to go with them. I really do. He’s been on the outside every start. If he can just get a rail trip and get around the track, I don’t see him having any problems pacing 51-and-change over there. I don’t know if that’s enough to win, but it’s definitely enough for him to be close. I don’t think he’ll be embarrassed, that’s for sure.” (SOANY)