Uncle Mo’s status in Kentucky Derby down to the wire
By BETH HARRIS May 5, 2011 10:40PM
Uncle Mo, who is recovering from a stomach problem discovered after a loss in the Wood Memorial, works out at Churchill Downs. | Rob Carr~Getty Images
The 137th Kentucky derby
The facts: Saturday, 5:24 p.m., Churchill Downs, Louisville, Ky., Ch. 5.
Horse Jockey Trainer Odds
1. Archarcharch Court Fires 10-1
2. Brilliant Speed Rosario Albertrani 30-1
3. Twice the Appeal Borel Bonde 20-1
4. Stay Thirsty Dominguez Pletcher 20-1
5. Decisive Moment Clark Arias 30-1
6. Comma to the Top Valenzuela Miller 30-1
7. Pants on Fire Napravnik Breen 20-1
8. Dialed In Leparoux Zito 4-1
9. Derby Kitten Castellano Maker 30-1
10. Twinspired Smith Maker 30-1
11. Master of Hounds Gomez O’Brien 30-1
12. Santiva Bridgmohan Kenneally 30-1
13. Mucho Macho Man Maragh Ritvo 12-1
14. Shackleford Castanon Romans 12-1
15. Midnight Interlude Espinoza Baffert 10-1
16. Animal Kingdom Albarado Motion 30-1
17. Soldat Garcia McLaughlin 12-1
18. Uncle Mo Velazquez Pletcher 9-2
19. Nehro Nakatani Asmussen 6-1
20. Watch Me Go Bejarano O’Connell 50-1
Weights: 126 pounds. Distance: 11/4 miles (10 furlongs). Purse: $2,196,800.
Updated: June 7, 2011 12:41AM
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — To go or not to go? Uncle Mo’s connections still weren’t saying whether the talented colt will run Saturday in the Kentucky Derby.
The sleek bay colt was recovering from a stomach ailment but looked good as he galloped over the Churchill Downs track Thursday, though appearances could be
deceiving. Uncle Mo looks about as exotic as his name — average size, with no distinguishing marks, such as the white splash on Zenyatta’s forehead. But his power is apparent as soon as he starts running.
Uncle Mo, the juvenile champion last year, is the 9-2 second choice
behind 4-1 early favorite Dialed In.
Owner Mike Repole anxiously awaited results from the latest vet exam and promised to end the drama by announcing a decision today.
“If he’s not what we deem to be 100 percent tomorrow, he’s not going to be 100 percent on Saturday,” he said.
Repole said he won’t sacrifice
Uncle Mo’s health to satisfy his
30-year dream of having a horse in the Derby. Either way, he won’t be shut out. He has Stay Thirsty in the full field of 20 3-year-olds.
Still, the fast-talking Queens native, who got rich selling his
Vitaminwater company to Coca-Cola, doesn’t want to leave his best horse in the barn.
“It’s tough,” he said. “Racing needs superstars, and if he’s 100 percent, Uncle Mo could be that superstar.”
He sure looked it after winning the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on the same Churchill Downs track and taking a perfect record into the Wood Memorial. There, Uncle Mo led the field with a quarter-mile to go, but two horses passed him and he finished third by a length. After-
ward, Uncle Mo’s appetite fell off and raised suspicions. An exam turned up the stomach problem.
Uncle Mo might be fine. Or Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher might be risking a repeat of the Wood.
“If he runs and he runs seventh, Todd and I will look at each other and guess he wasn’t 100 percent,” Repole said. “If he runs and he wins by seven lengths, we can look at each other and say, ‘Wow, we’re geniuses.’”
Count three-time Derby winner Bob Baffert among those who discount Uncle Mo’s bellyache.
“From what I’ve seen visually, there’s nothing there that tells me the horse isn’t ready to run,” the trainer of Midnight Interlude said.
It’s not as easy or obvious a call as last year, when Pletcher’s can’t-miss horse, Eskendereya, dropped out at the start of Derby week with a career-ending leg injury. Or in 2009, when Derby favorite I Want Revenge was scratched on the morning of the race with a bad ankle.
“I’ve seen this movie; everyone else has seen this movie,” Repole said. “It’s a horrible movie, and I don’t want to play a major role in it, either.”
Neither does jockey John Velazquez, who is searching for his first Derby victory after 12 tries.
“If he’s right, I don’t think he can be beaten,” Velazquez said. “I’m expecting a big race, nothing else.”
The ultimate decision might fall to Velazquez. If the colt doesn’t feel right warming up, Velazquez has the obligation to notify the track veterinarians that Uncle Mo isn’t ready to run 1¼ miles.
If Uncle Mo doesn’t make the Derby, he could turn up in the Preakness on May 21. If not, Repole said he’ll wait until Saratoga in July.