Mike Repole could have the post time favorites for the two biggest races at Saratoga on Saturday, Aug. 27—Stay Thirsty in the $1 million Travers (gr. I) and Uncle Mo in the $250,000 Foxwoods King’s Bishop (gr. I).
When asked what race he would want to win if he could only pick one, the outspoken and wealthy owner said the purse difference was not of consequence, but the prestige of the Travers would probably outweigh the King’s Bishop. But he also made it known that anything less than a win by Uncle Mo in his comeback would be a bitter disappointment.
“Uncle Mo is probably more of an emotional story for me because he was 2-year-old champ and because of the highs he gave me, my friends, and family, and winning my first graded stakes, and then the Breeders’ Cup, and the Eclipse Award,” Repole said.
“I can tell you the Travers is the race I’d rather win, but if Uncle Mo comes in second and Stay Thirsty wins I’m going to be happy, but probably not as happy as I should be. I have a Mike Repole (Daily) Double and if you win one out of two you don’t get to cash your ticket. You have to win both and I want to win both of these races. “
Uncle Mo will be making his first start since finishing third in the April 9 Wood Memorial (gr. I)—the only loss in five career starts. He was sidelined by a rare liver disorder, forcing him to miss the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), and comes into the seven-furlong King’s Bishop with major questions to answer, including whether or not he will return as the same brilliant colt he was before his illness. That won’t be known until Saturday, but Repole wants one thing to be clear:
“Right now, he’s training the best that he’s ever trained—even better than when he was a 2-year-old,” he said. “Todd (Pletcher) couldn’t be any happier…He’s worked with horses that are not only more fit but with horses that have come back and won… And he’s outworked both of those horses three different times. His gallop outs have been great; he hasn’t missed an oat since he’s gotten (to Saratoga); he has a ton of energy and a ton of passion. He could not be doing any better right now. He’s 110 percent healthy.
“Just to get him in the position he’s in right now—feeling so great, doing so well—we couldn’t be any more fortunate. He’s about 125 pounds heavier, his coat is there, his energy is there, his passion is there, his appetite is there, his personality is there. He’s a special horse and he’s acting like he’s a special horse.”
If all goes well, Repole said the plan is to stretch Uncle Mo out for his next start, which will likely come in the 1 1/8-mile Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) on Sept. 24. The Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) and a Horse of the Year trophy are the ultimate goals—even if it’s not exactly how they drew it up.
“I hoped Uncle Mo was going to be undefeated and be 5-for-5 right now and win the Triple Crown and we’d be talking about him as Horse of the Year and 3-year-old of the year,” Repole said. “But I (still) don’t think it’s (impossible for him) to be 3-year-old (champ) or Horse of the Year. What if he wins the King’s Bishop? What if he wins the Pennsylvania Derby? What if he wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic? You know what, it’s a lot of ifs, but this whole year has been like that. What would surprise you right now?”
As far as Stay Thirsty, he is clearly a horse that has gotten better as the season has gone on and Repole and Pletcher are expecting him to run another big race in the Travers. The son of Bernardini is 2-for-3 at Saratoga and has never run a bad race in New York in five career starts including his dominating, four-length Jim Dandy (gr. II) score July 30 at Saratoga.
“Maybe he’s like his owner and he functions better in New York than anywhere else,” joked Repole, a Queens native.
“He’s been training unbelievable. We always thought he’d be a late-developing 3-year-old, 4-year-old type horse. I think we’re starting to see that. I think the Belmont was his first breakthrough but everyone said maybe it was the rain. And then what he did at Saratoga in the Jim Dandy on a dry track was pretty special. Javier (Castellano) was on him on Sunday in his final work and he was so excited. He thought the horse trained amazing.”