HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -- Arguably the two best races Tommy Macho had ever run in an 18-race career both had come at a one-turn mile on the main track at Gulfstream Park. The 6-year-old horse might well have made it his three best-ever races Saturday when edging away to a thoroughly professional victory in the 33rd running of the $175,000 Fred W. Hooper at Gulfstream.
Always in good position under Luis Saez, Tommy Macho finally got the best of 15-1 shot Conquest Big E when prevailing by three-quarters of a length as the favorite in a field of nine older horses. The winner paid $6.20 after finishing the mile in 1:36.10 over a fast track.
It was the second Hooper win for Tommy Macho, coming nearly two years since he earned a 103 Beyer Speed Figure in taking the 2016 renewal. He subsequently earned a career-high 105 Beyer in winning the Hal's Hope here last January.
Before Saturday, Tommy Macho most recently ran fourth in the Kelso Mile at Belmont in September. "We had him in a race at Penn National but he came up with a little foot issue, so we scratched," said Todd Pletcher, who trains Tommy Macho for Paul Pompa Jr. "We thought we'd go ahead and send him down to Florida and run him at Gulfstream, where we know he likes it. He's a cool horse."
Pletcher said the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Mile on the March 31 Florida Derby undercard is the likely next start for Tommy Macho, a Kentucky-bred son of Macho Uno.
Longshot Moves Like Ali set the pace down the long backstretch run in the Hooper, with First Growth the first to overtake him as Saez had Tommy Macho not far behind while in a smooth rhythm. Near the quarter pole, Tommy Macho took over without much urging, then held sway while Conquest Big E and jockey Jose Batista tried without success to get past. Tale of Silence finished another 4 1/4 lengths back in third, with Giuseppe the Great, scratched as an also-eligible in the Pegasus World Cup, rallying late to get fourth.
The $2 exacta (8-3) paid $84.20, the $1 trifecta (8-3-1) returned $168.40, and the 10-cent superfecta (8-3-1-6) was worth $105.58.
The Hooper is named in honor of the late Florida owner-breeder who owned the 1945 Kentucky Derby winner, Hoop Jr.