Will Mask Upset Dak Attack in the Mucho Macho Man?

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

January 4th, 2018

Although the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man Stakes on Saturday at Gulfstream Park isn’t an official Kentucky Derby prep race, the one-mile race has been a productive first stop on Gulfstream’s road to the Derby.

You can usually count on trainer Dale Romans to have a horse in the Kentucky Derby, and one of his prime candidates this year is #3 Dak Attack, who will return from a lengthy layoff in the Mucho Macho Man. The talented son of Ghostzapper was a star in Kentucky during the summer, winning his debut at Churchill Downs over the future Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) winner Sporting Chance before rallying to an impressive three-length win in the Ellis Park Juvenile Stakes on August 20th.

A minor injury sidelined Dak Attack for the rest of the year, but he has trained sharply for his return, most recently breezing five furlongs in a bullet :59 flat on December 30th at Gulfstream. He figures to start as the favorite, but the combination of returning from a long layoff, stretching out in distance, and carrying 120 pounds (four more than many of his rivals) has me thinking that Dak Attack could be vulnerable to an upset, especially considering that he received a very favorable pace setup in the Ellis Park Juvenile.

Therefore, I’ll focus my attention on #6 Mask, who made a great impressive while winning his debut sprinting 6 ½ furlongs at Belmont on October 20th. Trained by Chad Brown, the son of Tapit broke slowly and wound up at the back of the pack early on, but showed no hesitation rallying smoothly between horses to reach contention turning for home, where he split horses professionally and drew off with authority to win by three lengths. This was a very promising debut, and the four-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Javier Castellano is set to retain the mount. Chad Brown is off to a hot start at the current Gulfstream meet, winning with five of his first 18 starters, and the one-turn mile should be perfect for Mask. If he breaks more alertly on Saturday, I think he’ll pull off a mild upset.

#4 Bal Harbour and #8 Whereshetoldmetogo, separated by a neck when 1-2 in the Smooth Air Stakes at Gulfstream last month, are other logical candidates to consider for the exotics, along with the unbeaten #5 Santiamen, who stretches out in distance following a pair of sprint victories.

Let’s try to make a score in the exacta and trifecta by keying Mask on top and focusing on Dak Attack underneath:

$5 exacta: 6 with 3 ($5) $3 trifecta: 6 with 3 with 4,5,8 ($9) $2 trifecta: 6 with 4,5,8 with 3 ($6)

Good luck!