The one-time heavy favorite for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Repole Stable’s Uncle Mo, was out for a gallop at Churchill Downs on Tuesday, April 19 in his first full day since arriving in Louisville.
Trainer Todd Pletcher was on hand at Churchill to watch Uncle Mo’s early morning gallop under exercise rider Hector Ramos. He also watched E. Paul Robsham Stables’ R Heat Lightning, the likely favorite for the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), and Repole Stable’s other Kentucky Derby hope, Gotham (gr. III) winner Stay Thirsty, gallop over the one-mile oval.
Uncle Mo was on the track around 6:30 a.m. EDT and Pletcher indicated that would likely be the colt’s training schedule through the May 7 Kentucky Derby.
Ramos is also the regular exercise rider for R Heat Lightning, and Pletcher said the rider’s dual duties would likely mean that she would be on the track during Churchill Downs’ post-renovation break training session for Derby and Oaks contenders in the days leading up to those races.
“Same rider, and he can’t ride both horses,” Pletcher said. “She’s probably the toughest horse on the grounds to gallop. She’ll appreciate the quieter set from 8:30 to 8:45, where there’s not going to be as many horses. That’s what I’m thinking right now, but I haven’t sorted it all out.”
Pletcher said Uncle Mo, who appeared likely to be one of the heaviest Kentucky Derby favorites in recent years until his third-place finish to Toby's Corner in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct, continues to be treated for gastrointestinal tract infection that was discovered a few days after that surprise setback. Pletcher hopes Uncle Mo moves forward as he trains over the track where he won the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) last November.
“I think he’s in the same position that every horse in this race is in, that they need to have a really good 19 days,” Pletcher said. “Obviously, when you have a gastrointestinal tract infection, you know your appetite is not going to be as good as you’d like for it to be and that type of thing. So we feel like he’s making progress and that he’s doing well but, like I said, he’s got to have a really good 19 days. But so does Stay Thirsty and everyone else.
“Last year, Super Saver was awesome for 21 days here. That’s what you need, and that’s why everything has to fall into place.”
Uncle Mo will work twice at Churchill before the Derby, but Pletcher is not sure at this point when those training moves will be scheduled.
“I want to get two works into him, that’s the only thing I’m thinking about,” Pletcher said. “If I decide he needs a few extra days, then obviously that’s going to push the other one back a few days at the other end.”
Pletcher-trained 3-year-olds Dance City and Brethren, who finished third and 11th, respectively in the Arkansas Derby (gr. I), are due in Kentucky on an April 19 flight that lands in Lexington. Dance City and several horses on that flight will travel by van to Churchill Downs, but Pletcher said Brethren would head home to nearby WinStar Farm for a couple of weeks rest and is definitely off the Kentucky Derby trail. He said there was no apparent problem with the half-brother to Super Saver, but some rest was in order following his run at Oaklawn Park.
“Physically there’s nothing,” said Pletcher. “It was just a disappointing effort. WinStar’s right there, so they’re going to take him home and give him a freshening.”
Pletcher said Dance City is not being considered for the Kentucky Derby because he does not have enough graded earnings to make the field the maximum field of 20 horses. He could be pointed toward the Preakness (gr. I) on May 21.
He said that Joe Vann, who is not nominated to the Triple Crown but won the recent Illinois Derby (gr. III), will probably be pointed to the $200,000 Peter Pan (gr. II) at Belmont Park on May 14.