Caleb's Posse came roaring down the lane and edged champion Uncle Mo by the narrowest of margins to win a thrilling edition of the $250,000 Foxwood's King’s Bishop Stakes (gr. I) Aug. 27 at Saratoga (VIDEO).
Returning from a four-month layoff, Uncle Mo took over from Flashpoint at the top of the stretch in the seven-furlong contest and did his best to hold off a talented group of 3-year-olds, but Caleb’s Posse, as he did in the Amsterdam Stakes (gr. II) earlier in the month, came from off the pace and ran down the favorite in the final jump to win by a nose.
The son of Posse earned his third graded stakes win in his last four starts and notched his first grade I triumph.
Caleb’s Posse is owned McNeil Stables and Cheyenne Stables. Bred by Don McNeill in Kentucky, he is out of the Slewacide mare Abbey’s Missy. Donnie Von Hemel trains the bay colt.
All eyes were on Mike Repole’s Uncle Mo, who was sent off as the favorite in a field of eight while making his first start since finishing third in the April 9 Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I)—his only loss in five career starts. The son of Indian Charlie, undefeated in three starts as a juvenile when winning the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male, was trying to prove he had not lost a step since recovering from a liver disorder.
Accustomed to being on the lead, Uncle Mo instead rated comfortably in fourth under John Velazquez as Runflatout, Flashpoint, and Poseidon's Warrior burned a :22.23 opening quarter.
Runflatout still led narrowly after a half-mile in a sizzling :44.92, but Uncle Mo was gaining ground on the turn. Flashpoint came away with a brief advantage when they straightened away, but Uncle Mo was just finding his best stride and took a clear lead approaching the eighth-pole while lugging in.
A host of horses were chasing him, but it was Cabeb’s Posse who was the biggest threat. Last after a half-mile, he swept five-wide into the lane under Rajiv Maragh and was gaining ground with every stride.
Uncle Mo dug in with urging from Velazquez in the final 100 yards, but Caleb’s Posse caught him in the final jump. He scored at odds of 5-1.
The final time for the distance on the fast dirt was 1:21.59. Justin Phillip, sent off at 34-1, finished third, one length in front of Dominus.
“My horse is a closer,” Maragh said. “He broke well, but he wanted to settle back a little bit. I tried to time my run right, and I was fortunate to get up in time. It was close (at the finish.) I felt like I got it, but you never know, you never can tell.”
Caleb’s Posse won for the fourth time in eight starts this season. He began the year with a win in the Jan. 17 Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park and then ran in all three of Oaklawn’s Triple Crown preps with his best finish coming when second in the Rebel (gr. II). After some time off he returned to win the Ohio Derby (gr. III) June 4 at Thistledown and was fourth in the Iowa Derby (gr. III).
It was at that point that Von Hemel decided to cut Caleb’s Posse back in distance and he responded with a dominating four-length Amsterdam win Aug. 1 at the Spa.
“Rajiv (showed) the ultimate patience, waiting. He swung out turning for home, and you could see he was going to make his run. Boy, it was just thrilling, for me anyway, all the way down to the last jump,” Von Hemel said.
Overall, Caleb’s Posse improved to 7-2-1 from 14 starts and earnings of $558,304.
The winner paid $13.80, $5, and $3.50. Uncle Mo returned $3.40 and $2.80, and completed a $39.40 exacta (2-7). The trifecta (2-7-6) paid $525, with Justin Phillip returning $6.60 to show.
Flashpoint was fifth, followed by Poseidon's Warrior, Runflatout, and Cool Blue Red Hot.
Of Uncle Mo’s effort, Velazquez said: “He ran awesome. It was a tough task to ask him off the bench. I thought he ran a great race, just barely made it. I’m just glad to have him back. He was fighting the whole way around. That’s what I like about him.”