Despite Mike Repole saying for a few weeks now that the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) March 12 was not written in stone for Uncle Mo, most people assumed that the juvenile champion and early Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) favorite was going to make his 3-year-old debut at the Oldsmar, Fla. racetrack.
And he still might, but on Feb. 16 Repole confirmed that they are also considering the $100,000 Timely Writer, a new overnight stakes recently written by Gulfstream Park. The Timely Writer, which will also be run on March 12 and is open to all 3-year-olds with no conditions, will be run as a one-turn mile. The Tampa Bay Derby is a two-turn race run at 1 1/16 miles.
Repole told the Blood-Horse that both races remain options and that he and trainer Todd Pletcher will wait until after the Indian Charlie colt works again on Feb. 20 to make a decision.
“The only thing we know for sure right now is that Mo will race on March 12,” Repole said. “We’ll talk it over after he works and we’ll let people know on Monday or Tuesday where our No. 1 and No. 2 choices are. Normally, we could wait until the week of both races to decide, but with a superstar horse like Mo we want to be fair to the public and to the racetracks by giving them 17 or 18 days notice so that everyone can make plans. It’s the right thing to do.
“Gulfstream and Tampa are both terrific racetracks and both races are good options for us. The pros of the Tampa Bay Derby is that it’s graded, has a bigger purse, and we know the race will definitely go. The pros of the Timely Writer is that it’s only a 30-minute commute from Palm Meadows to Gulfstream, whereas Tampa is four hours away, and that it’s a one-turn mile, which might be a good place to start back. The bottom line is that we’re going to do what’s best for the horse.”
Graded earnings, used in determining the starters for the Kentucky Derby, are not an issue for Uncle Mo. He sits atop the list of 3-year-old Triple Crown nominees with $1,260,000, most of that earned by winning the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) Nov. 6.
Both Pletcher and Repole said Uncle Mo, who fired a strong four-furlong move on Feb. 13 in his third work back, is doing exceptionally well since returning to training.
“Each work was better than the last,” Repole said. “Todd said he is doing great and that’s all I need to hear.”