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Ailing Uncle Mo a Derby maybe


What: The 137th running of the Kentucky Derby, the first leg of the Triple Crown

When: 5:24 p.m. post time Saturday

Where: Churchill Downs, Louisville, Ky.

Length: 1¼ miles (10 furlongs)

TV: Ch. 5

Post position draw

4 p.m. today on Versus

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Mike Repole, owner of prime contender Uncle Mo, said it remains unclear whether his 2-year-old champion will be sufficiently recovered from a gastrointestinal infection to compete in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

“If he’s not what I feel is 100 percent, he will probably not be in the starting gate,” Repole said Tuesday after arriving at the barn for a visit.

Uncle Mo has been treated with antibiotics since the infection was discovered after his first career defeat, a stunning third-place finish behind Toby’s Corner and Arthur’s Tale in the April 9 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct Racetrack in New York.

He’s not the only Derby contender with physical problems. Toby’s Corner was withdrawn Tuesday because of a problem with his left hind leg. It’s the third year in a row that the winner of the Wood has been unable to run in the Kentucky Derby.

As for Uncle Mo’s hopes, the owner described gallops scheduled for today and Thursday morning as “crucial.”

“You’re either going to see a horse who is a potential Derby winner or a horse who maybe shouldn’t be in the race,” he said.

Uncle Mo went through his final major workout for the 11/4-mile Derby on Sunday when he drilled five furlongs in 1:013/5 seconds, one-fifth of a second ahead of stablemate and regular work companion Stay Thirsty, also owned by Repole.

Although trainer Todd Pletcher described the drill over a sloppy Churchill Downs track as “textbook,” Uncle Mo typically outdistances his workmate by a significantly wider margin.

Repole drew a stark contrast between the condition of the two 3-year-olds. He said of Stay Thirsty, “He is at his best right now. I can’t say Uncle Mo is at his best right now.”

When Pletcher was asked whether Uncle Mo is fully recovered, he noted that time still remains before the Derby.

“He’s getting there,” he said.

There was talk of Uncle Mo as a Triple Crown threat when he dominated his first four starts by a combined 27 lengths. In what looked to be an auspicious end to a brilliant 2-year-old campaign, he rolled to a 41/4-length triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs.

“His 2-year-old races were faster than anybody has run this year,” Pletcher said. “I said we needed him to stay in the same place he was at 2. With the exception of the Wood, that is where he has been.”

NOTE: The chief executive of Churchill Downs Inc., which owns Arlington Park racetrack in northwest suburban Arlington Heights, said the company might shed some of its properties.

For the first time, the Louisville-based company last year got more profit — 53 percent — from online wagering and casino gambling than horse racing. Churchill once owned seven racetracks. It now has four, and chief executive Bob Evans said that number could shrink.

In a recent interview with Courier-Journal of Louisville, Evans said his goal is to build a sustainable business and, “Whether we’ve got four racetracks that’ll be part of that or three or two, I don’t know.”

Contributing: Scripps Howard News Service

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