Uncle Mo is headed to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I).
Last year’s juvenile champion scored his biggest win of 2011 when he repelled a bid from Jackson Bend just beyond the quarter-pole and put his rival away in the $200,000 Kelso Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) Oct. 1 at Belmont Park. The 3-year-old son of Indian Charlie, facing older horses for the first time, won by three lengths and completed the one mile in a lightning-quick 1:33.82 on the muddy track.
The victory earned Uncle Mo an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I), but owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher will likely point him to the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs. The connections also own 3-year-old standout Stay Thirsty.
"I want to win the Classic," Repole said. "If Mo was in the (Dirt) 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?”
Making his first start since missing by a nose in the Aug. 27 King’s Bishop (gr. I) at Saratoga, Uncle Mo faced only three horses in the Kelso. Sent off at 3-5, he went straight to the front under John Velazquez and ran a reasonable first quarter-mile in :23.47 with Jersey Town tracking in second. Uncle Mo quickened the pace and was caught in :46.03 after a half-mile.
Jackson Bend, a winner of consecutive stakes at Saratoga, broke a half-step slow and was last early on, but made a bold move on the inside as he rounded the turn under Corey Nakatani, and was now just behind Uncle Mo when they reached the quarter-pole (1:09.34). But that’s as close as he would get, as Velazquez asked Uncle Mo for more at the top of the lane and he responded by easily opening up his lead.
The bay colt led by three lengths at the eighth-pole and was never threatened in the final furlong en route to his first graded stakes victory this year. Jackson Bend was a clear second, eight in front of Jersey Town. Golddigger's Boy was last.
"They told me to let him go and to leave him alone, so I just let him do whatever he wanted to do," Velazquez said. "I had plenty of horse, so when I asked him to run, he was there for me.”
Uncle Mo raced for the fourth time this year. He won the Timely Writer Stakes at Gulfstream Park in March, then was third when upset in the April 9 Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct. He missed more than four months after that with a liver disorder.
The fan favorite improved to 5-1-1 from seven starts and increased his earnings to $1,606,000.
"I would have been surprised if he didn’t run really well," 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 Jockey Club later, and if Mike wants to take a shot with two horses in the Classic, I can't tell him any reason not to with this horse."
Uncle Mo was bred in Kentucky by Dr. Michael Cavey and is out of the Arch mare Playa Maya.
The winner paid $3.20 and $2.30. There was no show wagering. Jackson Bend was $2.80 to place and completed a $7.80 exacta (3-2).
Trainer Nick Zito said Jackson Bend would point toward the BC Dirt Mile.