All eyes will be on champion Uncle Mo when he makes his comeback in the $250,000 Foxwood’s King’s Bishop (gr. I) Aug. 27, but unlike his season debut that was light on talent, he will have to be at his best at Saratoga.
Mike Repole’s Uncle Mo was made the 9-5 favorite in the seven-furlong King’s Bishop, where he will face seven 3-year-old rivals including the speedsters Dominus, Flashpoint, Justin Phillip, Runflatout, as well as Amsterdam (gr. II) winner Caleb's Posse, who will try to run them down from off the pace. The race, the second of three grade I events on Saratoga’s Travers Day card, will be shown during NBC’s live coverage airing from 5-6 p.m. EDT. Post time for the King’s Bishop is set for 5:12 p.m. EDT.
Uncle Mo will be making his first start since finishing third in the April 9 Resorts World New York Casino Wood Memorial (gr. I)—the only loss in five career starts. In May he was sidelined by a rare liver disorder, forcing him to miss the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), where he would have been one of the favorites. His only start in 2010 came March 12 at Gulfstream Park in the one-mile Timely Writer Stakes, which was an easy 3 3/4-length victory against an overmatched group.
The bay spent two months recovering from his illness at WinStar Farm in Kentucky before arriving in Todd Pletcher’s care July 11 at Saratoga. He has breezed six times at Saratoga, including a sharp five-furlong move in :59 4/5 Aug. 21. Regular rider John Velazquez will have the mount on Uncle Mo and they will break from post 9. Pletcher won the King’s Bishop last year with Discreetly Mine and in 2000 with More Than Ready.
“We’ve been pointing for (the King's Bishop) since we started,” said Pletcher. “We envisioned it’d be a tough spot. We’re somewhat limited in options. When you have a horse like that, who has accomplished a lot and doesn’t have any allowance conditions left, you have to start somewhere. We think he’s the kind that’s talented enough to do something off the bench like that.”
As a 2-year-old, the son of Indian Charlie won all three starts decisively, including the Nov. 6 Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) by 4 1/4 lengths to lock up divisional championship honors. Repole bought him for $220,000 at the 2009 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Repole has indicated that if Uncle Mo runs well in the King’s Bishop he will stretch back out to two turns for his next starts, which will likely be in the Sept. 24 Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II).
Uncle Mo has gone wire-to-wire in three of his four wins, which makes the King’s Bishop even more interesting from a pace scenario. There are plenty of other speed demons in the field, including a pair from the barn of Steve Asmussen—Dominus and Justin Phillip.
Dominus, owned in partnership by George Bolton, Stonesetreet Stables, and Spendthrift Farm, won the July 2 Dwyer (gr. II) in front-running fashion at Belmont and set the pace in the July 20 Jim Dandy (gr. II) before fading to third. He will cut back to seven furlongs for the first time since breaking his maiden in March at Santa Anita. Julien Leparoux will ride.
“The turn back in distance felt right to us,” said Bolton. “Now we back him up to a distance where we know he’s comfortable. This is the time, this is the week where it makes the most sense shortening him up instead of stretching him out another furlong.”
Zayat Stables’ Justin Phillip has won two of seven starts this year, including the June 11 Woody Stephens (gr. II) at this distance in the Belmont mud. The First Samurai colt held a narrow lead at the top of the stretch in his last start, the Aug. 1 Amsterdam, before fading to fourth. Ramon Dominguez has the mount.
Other speedsters include Peachtree Stable’s Flashpoint and West Point Thoroughbreds’ Runflatout. Flashpoint, who drew the rail, is back at his preferred one-turn distance after a couple of failed tries stretching out this summer. ThePomeroy colt enters off a dazzling seven-length win in the six-furlong Jersey Shore (gr. III) at muddy Monmouth Park. He also counts the seven-furlong Hutcheson (gr. II) among his three career trips to the winner’s circle. Cornelio Velasquez will ride for Wesley Ward.
“He’s doing fantastic, and we’re looking forward to the challenge,” said Ward of the 5-2 second choice. “He’s an extremely talented horse, and we’ll have to see how it comes up, but we’re confident.”
Runflatout ships in from California for John Sadler after running fourth in the July 9 Swaps (gr. II) around two turns at Hollywood Park. The son of Flatter finished second in a pair of graded stakes before that and broke his maiden on the Santa Anita dirt in his debut back in January.
Poseidon's Warrior, shipping in from Parx Racing, also has good speed and enters off a couple of blowout wins in Pennsylvania. He will make his graded stakes debut.
Likely to be coming from off the pace are Caleb's Posse and Cool Blue Red Hot. Caleb’s Posse romped by four lengths at 12-1 in the 6 1/2-furlong Amsterdam Aug. 1 at Saratoga. The Donnie Von Hemel trainee was sprinting for the first time since last fall when recording back-to-back victories. He also boasts a win in the June 4 Ohio Derby (gr. III) among his six lifetime triumphs.
“(The King’s Bishop) is certainly a tough spot, with the likes of Uncle Mo and plenty of competition,” said Von Hemel, who trains the son of Posse for McNeill Stables and Cheyenne Stables. “The horse ran well the last time and has trained well in the interim.
Cool Blue Red Hot finished third in the Dwyer last out and two starts back won a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Belmont for Angel Penna Jr.
$250,000 King's Bishop (gr. I, Race 11, 5:12 p.m.), 3YO, 7 Furlongs (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, Odds 1. Flashpoint (FL), C H Velasquez, 121, W A Ward, 5-2
2. Caleb's Posse (KY), R Maragh, 121, D K Von Hemel, 9-2
3. Runflatout (KY), R Albarado, 117, J W Sadler, 8-1
4. Dominus (VA), J R Leparoux, 121, S M Asmussen, 6-1
5. Poseidon's Warrior (MD), F Pennington, 119, R E Reid Jr., 20-1
6. Justin Phillip (KY), R A Dominguez, 121, S M Asmussen, 15-1
7. Uncle Mo (KY), J R Velazquez, 121, T A Pletcher, 9-5
8. Cool Blue Red Hot (KY), M R Cruz, 117, A J Penna Jr., 12-1