The three-year old male division in the Thoroughbred racing game has produced more questions than answers in 2019. With that in mind, let’s throw out another query…Just how good is Mucho Gusto?

When the calendar turned back in January, the Bob Baffert barn featured a murderers row cast that would make Miller Huggins jealous. The hall of fame conditioner was loaded for bear with heavy hitters like Improbable, Roadster, and of course Juvenile Champion Game Winner in the mix. Mucho Gusto was of course on the lineup card, but he was far from the top prospect. Now, as we fast-forward to late June, we see this son of Mucho Macho Man has registered more wins in 2019 than the other three long-knockers combined. Granted, the three wins this year for Gusto have all been in grade 3 races at shorter distances, but nevertheless, he has brought home some bacon to the Baffert barn.

“Mucho is a late foal that didn’t actually turn three until late April (26),” says Baffert. “He has matured and just keeps getting better. He always tries hard and had a couple of tough luck losses that kept him off the Kentucky Derby trail.”

Mucho has won five of seven career starts and his two defeats saw a second and a third place finish in graded stakes company. The Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity (2nd) and Sunland Park Derby (3rd) were races that told the five-time Kentucky Derby winning conditioner perhaps his young colt was not yet ready for the classic distance races that compose the Triple Crown. Time and hard work has allowed Gusto the opportunity to improve under the watchful eye of “Big Race” Bob. Following a powerful score in the mile and a sixteenth Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita on June 16, the coach is ready to move his charge up in the lineup.

“Mucho is going to be our Haskell Invitational horse,” proclaims Baffert. “This is definitely a step up in class and we are going to see just how good he is. He has been a horse on the rise and it is time to find out where he is at against some of the best in his division.”

The million-dollar Haskell will be run at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey on July 20. Likely to attract some of the division’s big swingers like Maximum Security and perhaps War of Will, this will be a major league chance for Mucho Gusto. Baffert has proven his ability to ship and win grade 1 races all over the country and the Haskell is no different. His eight previous winners at Monmouth’s premier race for three-year old males has seen Ruthian like runners in Point Given, War Emblem, Lookin At Lucky, Bayern, and American Pharoah. His 2019 entrant does not have the same credentials as these past sluggers, or not just yet anyway.

“The Haskell is one of those prestigious races we always like to circle on the calendar,” says Baffert. “We are going to put Mucho Gusto in the batter’s box and let him take a swing.”