Owner Mike Repole and a British journalist engaged in a minor verbal tiff Nov. 3 at a press conference featuring connections of some of the top horses racing in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.
Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher were questioned by John McCririck, a British broadcaster known for his unorthodox dress and techniques, about possible distance limitations of Uncle Mo , favored in the 1 1/4-mile Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I). A son of Indian Charlie who was scratched out of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) for what was eventually diagnosed as a liver problem, Uncle Mo was pre-entered in the Classic and Dirt Mile (gr. I).
Earlier, McCririck had noted that the connections of Frankel, the top European horse who has been rated the world’s best Thoroughbred on the basis of his remaining undefeated in nine starts, had questions about whether their horse could get the 1 1/4-mile distance.
As the press conference wound down, Repole responded to McCririck’s questioning by saying, “I think Uncle Mo would beat Frankel at a mile—on dirt.”
“We’ll take you on!” McCririck shouted back. Press conference moderator Eric Wing then ended the session by joking, “before we have an international incident.”
McCririck is not alone in questioning Uncle Mo’s ability to get the Classic distance, as that question and the time for a recent workout have drawn scrutiny. But Pletcher and Repole remain confident of the chances of Uncle Mo, who ran second in the King’s Bishop (gr. I) and won the Kelso Handicap (gr. II) since his return to competition following his spring illness.
“This is not about Mike Repole wanting to run two horses in the Classic,” said the owner, who will also be represented in the race by the Pletcher-trained Stay Thirsty . “This is that Uncle Mo deserves a shot. The way he ran in the Kelso, he looks like he could go two miles. We have two great chances of winning this race.
“He’s going into this race as good as he’s ever gone before. Todd says he’s as good as he’s ever going to be.”
“You’re always concerned (about distance),” Pletcher said. "If there are 13 horses in there, it will be too far for 12 of them. The way this horse trains, the way he galloped this morning, if he gets into a rhythm—he has got tremendous stride, great rhythm—if he can get into that rhythm and goes at a steady beat, I think he stays a mile and quarter. Ultimately, there will be only one way to find out.”
Pletcher reiterated that Uncle Mo’s five furlong workout in 1:01 2/5 was by design and did not reflect a problem with the horse.
“I get scared when Uncle Mo works. I don’t want him to go that fast,” Pletcher said in reference to a four-furlong work in a quick :46 2/5 leading up to the Kelso. “What we try to do is not get too excited when we see everybody’s else’s works. What works for your program year round should work for you in these big races as well. I was looking forward to a good maintenance work, with a good gallop out.”