Uncle Mo, the champion 2-year-old male of 2010, continues to exhibit positive signs of improving health and is on target to resume light training in about 10 days, WinStar Farm president and racing manager Elliott Walden said June 7.
Owned by Mike Repole and trained by Todd Pletcher, Uncle Mo has been at WinStar Farm near Versailles, Ky., since May 9 when he was shipped from Churchill Downs after being scratched from the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). The week of May 29, after undergoing a biopsy, the son of Indian Charlie was diagnosed with cholangiohepatitis, which is a disease that affects the liver.
Since his time at WinStar, Uncle Mo’s appetite has improved considerably and his weight has steadily increased. When he arrived, the bay colt was 1,083 pounds, and as of June 7 he weighed in at 1,162 pounds.
His energy level has gradually improved, and the morning of June 7 he was playfully running around his one-acre paddock, where he spends most of the morning grazing. Uncle Mo’s coat, lackluster and dull when at Churchill, now has much better color and for the first time since he has arrived at WinStar is showing signs of dapples.
“He just started getting the dapples this week,” Walden said. “He’s starting to feel good. When he first got here, he wouldn’t run much at all. His appetite has been great. He’s on no medications at all and has gained about 10% of his body weight back.”
Uncle Mo has received five treatments in the hyperbaric chamber at WinStar and continues to have blood drawn twice per week.
If all continues to go well, Uncle Mo could begin jogging late in the week of June 12 on WinStar’s training track, and about seven days later would begin galloping. Walden said it is possible Uncle Mo could be shipped to Pletcher’s New York barn by July 15.
Repole said the goal in a “perfect world” would be for Uncle Mo to begin breezing in late July and for him to make his return in the Aug. 27 Foxwoods King’s Bishop (gr. I, seven furlongs) at Saratoga. But they are a long way from that right now.
“That would only be if we get lucky, everything goes perfect, and he keeps moving in the right direction,” Repole said. “As I’ve always said, Mo’s health will be the determining factor for every decision we make.”
Dr. Doug Byars, one of the three regular veterinarians in charge of overseeing Uncle Mo’s health, has visited the colt once a week since his arrival at WinStar. He said the first major aspect of Uncle’s Mo’s recovery was diagnosing the problem, which had been unknown after he was originally diagnosed with a gastrointestinal tract infection after finishing third in the April 9 Wood Memorial (gr. I). Performing a biopsy was not an option while the horse was in training.
Cholangiohepatitis is not all that uncommon in horses, Byars said, but it is rare for a top-level racehorse. The cause of contraction can vary, though it can be something that starts with a toxin entering the blood stream and eventually causes inflammation in the liver and/or bile ducts. In Uncle Mo’s case, he said it would be speculative to attempt to offer an opinion on how he contracted the disease.
More importantly, Byars is encouraged by everything he has seen since Uncle Mo has been at WinStar, including the blood work and advanced tests, which have shown that Uncle Mo does not have an advanced stage of the disease.
“He’s being treated with nothing and is responding very well,” said Byars, who worked as a veterinarian at Hagyard-Davidson-McGee Equine Medical Institute for 23 years and is now an independent consultant based in Lexington. “We are very encouraged from that standpoint. He still has some tests that are pending, but as of now he’s doing well.”
But even though they are encouraged by his progress, Byars said there is a possibility Uncle Mo’s health could regress when he is returned to training. That is something they will not know until it happens, he said.
“Did he unravel from the stresses of training? We don’t know. Did he pick up a particular bug? We don’t know,” Byars said. “Right now, he is sipping lemonade at the beach and we feel comfortable he is moving forward. When he gets back in training, we’ll have a marker with his blood work. He’ll have some dietary adjustments too.
"Had the disease been in an advanced stage, like we see with some horses, then we would be dealing with a longer recovery period, and we would not be quite as quick to return him to training.”
Uncle Mo was named champion juvenile after winning all three starts in 2010, including the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I). He is 4-0-1 from five starts with earnings of $1,436,000.