Although some question the decision to use the March 12 Timely Writer Stakes as Uncle Mo ’s 3-year-old debut, owner Mike Repole feels the one-mile ungraded race is the right vehicle for last year’s champion 2-year-old male.
“Todd (Pletcher) and I are both very confident that this is the right decision,” Repole said. “I see this year’s campaign as very similar to last year’s. The Timely Writer is like his maiden race. The Wood Memorial (gr. I), where he’ll run next, is comparable to his Champagne (gr. I), and then the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) will be his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I). Every race a little added distance – a mile, a mile and an eighth and then the Kentucky Derby at a mile and a quarter.
“He’s been training so well and the surface at Palm Meadows is very similar to the surface at Gulfstream. The ship is a 20-minute ship as opposed to a 4 1/2-hour ship, and the surface at Tampa is way different. We know he can get two turns; he proved that in the Breeders’ Cup. So I just thought this was the right move for the horse. Todd is the best trainer out there and he makes the final decision on my horses. I have zero Eclipse Awards, and the last time I checked he had five, so when he says Timely Writer, Mike Repole says Timely Writer.
“I love watching his horses work in the morning, because sometimes they’re better than the afternoon races. When you see Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty working together and some of his older horses, you really see some exciting works. So I’m very confident.”
Repole also was thrilled with Stay Thirsty’s victory in the March 5 Gotham Stakes and feels the son of Bernardini is only going to keep getting better.
“Stay Thirsty ran such an impressive race off a four-month layoff and only five works,” Repole said. “He shipped up to New York the week of the race and Todd and I thought he had very little margin for error. When he broke last my stomach turned, and then Ramon (Dominguez) was forced to take him wide on the first turn, which is a big no-no on the Aqueduct inner track. He changed leads a couple of times in the stretch and once Ramon got him going he drew off to win by 3 1/4 lengths, and if the race had been a mile and an eighth he probably would have won by seven”
But now he must turn his attention to Uncle Mo’s long-awaited debut and subsequent run to the Derby. In commenting on Pletcher’s statement that Uncle Mo just needs to stay where he was as a 2-year-old, Repole said, “What Todd is saying is that he’s running fast enough numbers – Beyers, Ragozin, and ThoroGraph – that if he just runs the same numbers and stays as good as he is, they are good enough to win 3-year-old races. Todd says he’s as good as last year and thinks he’s even better.
“What I’m most encouraged about is that of his three wins last year, his Breeders’ Cup, going two turns for the first time, was his easiest. He rated very nicely behind Riveting Reason, Johnny (Velazquez) had full control of him, and when he looked back with a half-mile to go I had the biggest smile on my face. You don’t see Johnny do that too many times. I don’t think he needs to be running first or second. In a 20-horse field, I think he can be in a good spot in fifth or sixth. In all of his races he’s shown an explosive burst of speed.”
Repole still finds it hard to believe the position he’s in after dreaming of this moment for so many years. “It’s 10 times more exciting than I ever could have imagined. And believe me, I imagined it to be real exciting. I just didn’t know that it came with 20 times the anxiety. I’m so fortunate and blessed. To own a horse like this is amazing, and to own him and Stay Thirsty, these are two once-in-a-lifetime horses. A year and a half ago we were talking about me having two horses in a $20,000 claiming race, not two horses in the Derby. I can’t even explain having two horses like this in the same year. It’s unimaginable.”
Repole is excited not only for himself, but for the sport.
“We’ve had Zenyatta, we’ve had Rachel Alexandra,” he said. “It’s been a while since we had a colt people were really really excited about. Uncle Mo, win, lose, or draw, probably isn’t going to change my life financially, but I think he has an opportunity to do something really special for racing that we haven’t seen in a long, long time. And just as a racing fan, and just for the sport, I really hope he does. And if not Uncle Mo, I hope it’s somebody else. And if not this year, then next year.”