"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher (604 BC – 531 BC). For Mike Machowsky and Caracortado, what seemed like an infinite trek began on January 8, 2012.
Since no one can predict the future, the final destination is unknown, but a rich and rewarding stopover could come on November 2, when Caracortado runs in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita.
Caracortado was a longshot to take any competitive steps at all, especially in the elevated company he was keeping, after suffering an injury that sent him to the sidelines following victory in the Daytona Stakes nearly two years ago.
But trainer, breeder and part owner Mike Machowsky and his dedicated crew were not about to yield, especially since Caracortado himself encouraged them with his stick-to-itiveness throughout the healing process of the persistent ailment.
Specifically, Caracortado injured the "frog" on his right front foot. In medical terms, the frog not only acts as a shock absorber, it is an important part of a horse's circulatory system, pumping blood up the leg each time the frog makes contact with the ground.
The blood flows down the leg into the digital cushion, a fibrous part of the inner hoof just above the frog, which contains a network of blood vessels. The horse's weight then compresses the frog on the ground, squeezing the blood out of the digital cushion and pushing it back up the legs.
Caracortado was an appealing human interest story from the start. He broke his maiden first out in a maiden claiming race at Fairplex Park, which, while a fixture in California racing lore, will never rival the rich history of iconic venues such as Santa Anita, Saratoga or Churchill Downs. He won four straight races after that, including the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita in 2010.
Caracortado (it means scarface in Spanish) has generated enough interest that he has his own Facebook page (Caracortado) and his own Twitter account (@TheCaracortado).
From 20 career starts, he has won nine, earning $870,105 for Machowsky and his fellow owners who include Super Bowl-winning quarterback Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints; Don Blahut; Steve Sobel; and the Kagele brothers, Tom and Jerry.
After several aborted comeback attempts during his 20-month hiatus, Caracortado finally made it back to the races on September 27, finishing a promising fourth in the Eddie D. Stakes, run at about 6 1/2 furlongs on turf, the California-bred gelding's favorite course, and identical to that of the Turf Sprint.
Caracortado came out of the Eddie D. well, in fact he worked six furlongs Saturday in 1:12 1/5 on Santa Anita's main track. The drill moved him closer to the Turf Sprint. Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, like Caracortado in a successful comeback, this after a seven-year retirement, rides the six-year-old chestnut son of Cat Dreams for the first time in the Turf Sprint.
"I'll breeze him again next week, Saturday or Sunday, maybe on the grass," Machowsky said. "Gary will work him to get to know him a little bit and feel his turn of foot. The horse has trained great. It took a lot of patience from everybody, me, my help, the owners and the horse.
"He never left Santa Anita that whole time," Machowsky added. "We kept him at the barn here. It's been a very tedious process, but that's what it required. You have to be patient with any horse, but when you have one with his ability -- we didn't know if he might come back, or what level he might come back at, but right now, he's training as good as ever."
In other Breeders' Cup news:
Gary Stevens was aboard She's a Tiger in a bullet 1:10 3/5 work for six furlongs Sunday at Santa Anita as the Chandelier Stakes runner-up prepares for the Juvenile Fillies on November 2 for trainer Jeff Bonde.
"It was an excellent work," the Hall of Fame jockey said. "She always works well -- I wasn't asking her for anything. I'm excited. She's doing well."
With Steve Asmussen on hand, Untapable (Juvenile Fillies) worked five furlongs in 1:00 4/5.
Dirt Mile contender Holy Lute blitzed in a bullet :59.
Trainer Jorge Gutierrez is likely to enter Bright Thought in the Breeders' Cup Mile when pre-entries are taken Monday.
"We'll see if we get in, although we probably won't," Gutierrez said of the former world record holder for 1 1/2 miles on turf. "We'll enter and go from there."
Bright Thought worked seven furlongs on Santa Anita's firm turf course Saturday in 1:28 3/5.
Eddie D. Stakes winner Chips All In (to be supplemented to the Turf Sprint) also worked on grass Saturday, going five furlongs in 1:00 3/5 for Jeff Mullins. Lady of Shamrock (Filly & Mare Turf) went six furlongs on grass Saturday in 1:14 1/5 for John Sadler, while City of Hope Mile Stakes winner No Jet Lag (Mile) went five furlongs in :58 4/5 for Simon Callaghan.
Also Saturday, Obviously, who had his winning streak snapped while finishing fourth as the 1-2 favorite in the City of Hope Mile, worked five furlongs on turf in a bullet :58 2/5 with Joe Talamo up for Mike Mitchell.
Surfer Girl Stakes runner-up Nesso worked five furlongs on Santa Anita's turf course Saturday in 1:02 2/5 for the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
"She can go either way," trainer Vann Belvoir said of her running style. "We'll see how the race sets up. "I think Martin's (Garcia) got options. We went easy with her in the work. She finished up (in one) 11 and three (fifths for six furlongs). She'll have one more breeze next Saturday."
Sprint contender Bahamian Squall scorched five-eighths in a bullet :58 4/5 at Gulfstream Saturday.
"I couldn't be happier with the work," trainer David Fawkes said. "He'll work next Saturday and ship on Sunday."
At Hollywood on Sunday, Filly & Mare Turf threat Marketing Mix drilled five furlongs on the Cushion Track in 1:01 3/5.
Reneesgotzip, in the mix for the Turf Sprint, Sprint and Filly & Mare Sprint, motored in 1:00 2/5.
Over Keeneland's Polytrack on Sunday, Judy the Beauty, winner of the Thoroughbred Club of America on October 5, worked five furlongs in company in :59 with Dylan Davis aboard for the Filly & Mare Sprint.
Working before the main track closed for training, Judy the Beauty started two lengths in back of Finura, a three-year-old maiden winner, and finished two lengths in front while posting fractions of :12 1/5, :23 4/5, :35 4/5 and out six furlongs in 1:13.
"That was a nice breeze," owner-trainer Wesley Ward said. "She will come back next Saturday or Sunday."
Trainer A.C. Avila will enter L.A. Woman Stakes runner-up Great Hot in the Filly & Mare Sprint. Chantal Sutherland Kruse rides.
At Trackside Louisville, Turf Sprint candidate Havelock breezed a half-mile in :50 on a track listed as good Sunday.
Agent Joe Ferrer has the following firm commitments for his two riders, Rafael Bejarano and Julien Leparoux: Goldencents (Bejarano, Dirt Mile); Clenor (Bejarano, Juvenile Fillies Turf); Book Review (Bejarano) and Sweet Lulu (Leparoux, Filly & Mare Sprint); Chips All In (Leparoux, Turf Sprint) and either Boat Trip or Havelock (Bejarano, Turf Sprint); Tiz Flirtatious (Leparoux, Filly & Mare Turf); Dance With Fate (Bejarano) and Diamond Bachelor (Leparoux, Juvenile); and Silentio (Bejarano, Mile).