In Uncle Mo’s four career starts, we still don’t know where his bottom is because he hasn’t even come close to reaching it. And he is not expected to reach it in the $1 million Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct April 9.
So, is that a problem for trainer Todd Pletcher, as he prepares the 2-year-old champ for the mile and a quarter grind of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I)?
“You’re always concerned about your preparation, whether it’s going to be exactly right on the one day of a horse’s lifetime,” Pletcher said. “The only thing I can say so far in Uncle Mo’s career, in his maiden race no one could challenge him; in the grade I Champagne, no one could challenge him; in the grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, no one could challenge him; so I don’t know where I would go looking for someone that’s going to press him. In most of his races so far, all he’s been running against essentially is the clock. He challenges himself, because he’s running so fast anyway it doesn’t matter who else is in there.
“I laid out our schedule and this is where we want him to make his final prep, so we’ll hope it’s going to be enough and what we’ve done with him in his breezes and gallops is going to be enough.”
Pletcher, who trains Uncle Mo for Mike Repole, said he always worries about covering every base, especially with a horse as special as Uncle Mo, but he doesn’t worry about the competition as much as how the horse is doing and how he’s coming up to the race.
“On paper, there isn’t a horse you would expect is going to run the kind of race it would take to beat Uncle Mo,” Pletcher said. “But as we saw in the Florida Derby, sometimes these 3-year-olds improve a great deal from race to race this time of year, so there might be somebody in there that’s ready to run a superior race. We just want to see more of what we’ve seen from Uncle Mo every start of his life, and that is brilliance.”
Pletcher feels one of Uncle Mo’s main attributes is his stride and high cruising speed.
“He does everything very easily,” he said. “I haven’t measured his stride, but I would suspect it’s tremendous. He covers so much ground and that’s one of his many strengths. When you see him get lower and drop his body down and extend his stride it’s extremely impressive.”
One thing Uncle Mo may have to encounter on Saturday is a wet track, something he has never run on. At this point, the forecast calls for showers on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
“It always concerns you when a horse of his caliber runs on anything but a perfect racetrack, but he did have a breeze in the slop before his maiden race at Saratoga because we were on a tight schedule,” Pletcher said. “He handled that fine, and I wouldn’t be concerned about him handling a wet surface, but from a safety standpoint you always feel a little more comfortable when the conditions are fast.”
Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie--Playa Maya, by Arch) was scheduled to arrive in New York on April 5, but his flight was delayed a day because of bad weather.
Pletcher said Stay Thirsty’s poor performance in the Florida Derby (gr. I) remains a puzzle.
“He seemed to come out of it in good shape and for some reason he didn’t seem to fire,” Pletcher said. “We don’t have a real explanation for it yet. The good news is that physically he came out it well and will fly to Louisville on Thursday and we’ll see how he trains. We haven’t lost confidence in him. I don’t know why but it seems a number of horses didn’t run their races on Florida Derby day. So we’ll regroup and see if we can move forward for the big one.”
Pletcher also said Brethren had a five-furlong breeze at Palm Meadows Sunday in :59 4/5 and is on schedule for the April 16 Arkansas Derby (gr. I), where he likely will be joined by stablemate Dance City, recent winner of a 1 1/8-mile allowance race.