Stay Thirsty<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Stay Thirsty
Order This Photo

Rick Samuels

Stay Thirsty Looks Great, But Still in Shadow

Even when he has an apparent edge, Stay Thirsty still is overshadowed by Uncle Mo.

We’re all well aware by now that Stay Thirsty  has lived in the shadow of his more illustrious stablemate, Uncle Mo , since the pair were mere babies breaking on to the racing scene. A good portion of Stay Thirsty’s career has been racing where he shouldn’t and not racing where he should. The reason is simple: Uncle Mo, the Todd Pletcher stable’s favorite child, has always had first preference when it came to, well, everything, including where to run.

Stay Thirsty finally emerged as the golden child when Uncle Mo was sidelined with a serious liver disease prior to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Stay Thirsty found his way to the winner’s circle in the Jim Dandy (gr. II) and Travers Stakes (gr. I) following a gutsy second in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).


When Mo returned and set the sport ablaze again, winning the one-mile Kelso Handicap (gr. II) in a blistering 1:33 4/5, earning a monster 118 Beyer speed figure, it brought him back to the head of the class, combined with Stay Thirsty’s third-place finish in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) the same day.


Now, here they are at Churchill Downs preparing to team up for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I). But there was one little snag. While Stay Thirsty was thriving at Churchill, Uncle Mo was being ripped apart by the TV analysts, handicappers, and clockers following what was considered a uninspiring (at best) half-mile work in :48.


So, instead of people raving about Stay Thirsty’s work, subsequent gallops, and overall physical conditioning, all everyone was talking about was Uncle Mo’s workout and the fact he didn’t go to the track on Tuesday, two days after the work.


But Pletcher assured all was fine with the son of Indian Charlie.


“He’s in excellent shape,” Pletcher said. “He really seems happy here. He’ll gallop tomorrow morning. We’re coming at this race a little differently than you’d normally come at the Classic. But given the cards we were dealt in the spring, we had to come up with a game plan to get here and the King’s Bishop was a good starting point. The Kelso was kind of the best prep for us, not wanting to run in the Jockey Club (Gold Cup) with only one race under his belt. Hopefully we’ll build off that.”


As for Stay Thirsty, Pletcher was beaming with confidence at his chances in the Classic: “He’s doing well; hopefully he’ll give a good account of himself on Saturday.”


OK, there was a touch of sarcasm leading up to that quote, but superlatives regarding Stay Thirsty are about as rare as 18 inches of snow in northern New Jersey in October.


The truth is, Stay Thirsty has been doing great at Churchill Downs. His final work in company was strong, he seems to love the surface, his gallops have been strong, and he looks fantastic physically, from his resplendent coat to his well-defined muscle tone.


Does he have the raw talent of Uncle Mo? Not even close, but he is an improving son of Bernardini  and that’s always a dangerous combination.


In regard to Uncle Mo, he obviously relished getting back to the track and was on his toes leaving the gap and returning after his gallop. Some love him and some feel he has little to no shot going a mile and a quarter, especially off only a seven-furlong and a one-mile race since April. With him, it’s very simple: if he’s tight enough and does get the distance he should win for fun, based on his talent alone.


That would make for such a remarkable comeback considering the severity of his illness even Stay Thirsty would stand up and cheer.


In other Classic news, it has been learned that Ballydoyle’s So You Think will wear blinkers to help avoid as much kickback as possible. So You Think did wear blinkers in Australia earlier in his career, so they shouldn’t take much getting used to.


Rattlesnake Bridge and Game On Dude had their first gallops over the Churchill track and both looked very strong. Rattlesnake Bridge, who will take far back and make one run, was another on his toes and seems to be doing extremely well physically. The big, powerful gray makes a splendid overall appearance. He still hasn’t quite figured out this game, but when he does he’s going to be a major force. If it doesn’t come this year, watch out next year.

Game On Dude was carrying good flesh after a long year, in which he was involved in several gut-wrenching stretch battles, and we loved the way he got over the ground. His coat seems to be blossoming and we were taken by his beautiful head and kind eye.