Uncle Mo blazes in Kelso
Juvenile champion Uncle Moe made a scintillating return to the winner's circle Saturday in the Grade 2, $200,000 Kelso at Belmont Park. While a nominal prep for the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, it was widely expected the son of Indian Charlie would be using the one-mile test as a tune-up for the 1 1/4-mile Breeders' Cup Classic. The style of Uncle Mo's victory suggests the three-year-old could be one of the betting favorites in that Grade 1 event on November 5.
Setting the tempo from the start, Uncle Mo set a soft early quarter of :23 2/5 before increasing the pace. Passing the half in :46, Uncle Mo met his sternest challenge from 5-2 second choice Jackson Bend approaching the quarter pole. That rival attempted to squeeze his way eventually along the inside approaching the top of the stretch, but jockey John Velazquez allowed Uncle Mo drift inside slightly in a tactical move. The six-furlong mark was reached in 1:09 1/5.
With the inside closed, Jackson Bend was sifted outside Uncle Mo by jockey Corey Nakatani, but as the two raced to the wire Uncle Mo began to open up on his older rival and earned a convincing victory while under hand encouragement at the end. The winning margin was three lengths, with a mile completed a swift 1:33 4/5 over a muddy strip. The 3-5 favorite in a field of four, Uncle Mo paid $3.20 and $2.30. There was show wagering due to the short field.
Grade 1 Forego winner Jackson Bend, whose next start is likely the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, finished eight lengths clear of Jersey Town for second. Trailing the quartet, 7 1/2 lengths behind Jersey Town, was Golddigger's Boy. Sangaree was an announced scratch from the Kelso on Friday.
Named champion juvenile colt after an undefeated campaign of three races, Uncle Mo's tour de force began with a 14 1/4-length maiden victory at Saratoga, followed by a 4 3/4-length triumph in the Grade 1 Champagne and a 4 1/4-length win in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
"I would have been surprised if he didn't run really well," winning trainer Todd Pletcher said. "He had trained so brilliantly since the King's Bishop. He ran even better than I could have hoped. Jackson Bend put in a serious move around the turn. He was really running; in the form he's in, obviously, he's the horse you're mainly concerned about. I was worried for a second. Uncle Mo is that special of a horse that he can do anything. We're going to watch how he trains, watch the (Grade 1) Jockey Club (Gold Cup) later, and if (owner) Mike (Repole) wants to take a shot with two horses in the Classic, I can't tell him any reason not to with this horse.
Owner Mike Repole is indeed continuing to think Breeders' Cup Classic with his star colt.
"I love the Classic," he said. "In my opinion, if you run Uncle Mo in the Sprint, he's the favorite. If you run Uncle Mo in the Dirt Mile, he's the favorite. If you run him in the Classic, he's probably going to be the favorite. I want to win the Classic. If Mo was in the Mile and won, and Stay Thirsty was in the Classic and finished third, it would be a decision I would regret for the rest of my life. Why not take two shots at a race everybody wants to win?"
A heavy winter favorite for the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, Uncle Mo kicked off his sophomore campaign on a winning note by taking the March 12 Timely Writer over a mile at Gulfstream, but the colt suffered his first career setback when third as the heavy favorite in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial. After several weeks of lackluster training, Uncle Mo was taken out of Derby consideration and was ultimately diagnosed with a liver ailment.
Uncle Mo made a near-successful return to the races in the Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga over seven furlongs. Leading by 1 1/2 lengths with a furlong to go, Uncle Mo was run down in the shadow of the wire by Caleb's Posse, who nipped the champion by a nose.
Purchased as a yearling for $220,000 Keeneland September sale, Uncle Mo was produced by the Arch mare Playa Maya. She was bred in Kentucky by D. Michael Cavey.
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