SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, April 26, 2011-Just like so many other prep races have done, the final round of graded stakes last Saturday only helped to muddle the Kentucky Derby picture even further.
And making it just a little more confounding, juvenile champion Uncle Mo, not 100 percent to run last week, is back in Derby form if yesterday’s highly anticipated workout is any measure.
After Uncle Mo’s regular veterinarian, Dr. Steve Allday, pronounced the colt sound following his shocking Wood Memorial defeat, Todd Pletcher felt that it might have been something internal that was troubling the champion.
So he and owner Mike Repole brought Dr. Doug Byars to New York from Lexington, Kentucky. Byars performed a battery of tests and discovered that the colt had a GI tract inflammation and immediately began a medication regimen.
“Losing the Wood might have been a good thing,” Repole said on Tuesday’s NTRA conference call. “Uncle Mo has enough talent to win major Grade 1 races at 80 or 90 percent. If he won the Wood, we might never have discovered that he had an issue.
“I’d rather finish third in the Wood and win the Derby, than win the Wood and finish third in the Derby.”
Between Repole’s Uncle Mo and suddenly rejuvenated Stay Thirsty, Todd Pletcher is very likely to have two starters whereas Bob Baffert has lost two of his three Derby bullets.
Baffert and owner Ahmed Zayat ran out of racetrack with Jaycito and have set their sites on the sandy loam in Long Island. Prudent choice, as was Tuesday’s announcement by owner George Bolton that The Factor would not run May 7, leaving Baffert Santa Anita Derby-winning Midnight Interlude as his lone entrant.
The Factor had a myectomy to correct a breathing issue, having displaced his soft palate while resenting stout restraint in the Arkansas Derby.
But instead of a Derby go, Baffert trusted his gut and decided not to risk losing out with The Factor the rest of the year. Bolton made it official then mentioned the Preakness, Met Mile, or the Woody Stephens vs. sprinting three-year-olds on Belmont Stakes day.
J P’s Gusto was also eliminated from Derby consideration which allows Shackleford to qualify as the Derby’s 20th starter under the graded earnings criteria. Trained by hometown favorite Dale Romans, the Florida Derby runnerup is reportedly working well up to the Derby.
With jockey John Velazquez aboard, Uncle Mo worked in company with Calibrachoa, a Grade 3 sprint winner this winter at Aqueduct. The team went the first quarter-mile in :25 2/5, the next furlong in :11 4/5 and completed five furlongs in 1:01 3/5 with Calibrachoa under some pressure and Velazquez sitting still on Uncle Mo.
But it was the gallop-out that had Team Pletcher smiling, as they completed six furlongs in 1:15 2/5 and pulled up seven furlongs in 1:32 1/5 over the sloppy Churchill oval. Traditionally, the Derby track doesn’t begin to sped up until Derby week as the race draws near.
After being pronounced fit for training by Dr. Byars, Uncle Mo hasn’t missed a day of training. “It was the way he went today,” Repole said. “Todd called the workout to me over the cell phone, that he was doing it smooth and easy, Johnny being a statue. Todd said he went at about 80 percent today.”
Twenty percent more, at least, will be required 10 days hence. But for now, the connections are happy to have the colt back in the game. So, too, should fans of “America’s Race.”
HRI’s Derby Power 10, Week 11 edition:
1. Dialed In (36) For the Derby division’s leading candidate, one more week and one more workout remain, scheduled for tomorrow, before making the trek north and west from Boynton Beach.
2. Toby’s Corner (22) If there were no stopwatches, wouldn’t this young guy be celebrated for his finishing power after having first done a nifty bit of broken field running to knife his way through a herd? Hasn’t missed a beat at Fair Hill. Ships into Louisville on Monday.
3. Archarcharch (19) It matters not whether he’s asked to sprint or go long, to stalk from close range or rally from the clouds, he’s going to come after you in a big way. Loves the game and is hickory tough.
4. Mucho Macho Man (16) Like the rest, doing it the modern way coming in fresh. Doing it old school, too, with meaningful distance a.m. trials. More honest than Abe Lincoln.
5. Uncle Mo (15) One work down and one workout to go. His energy level is reported high and Tuesday‘s trial underscores that notion. Sophomore development will remain an unknown until Derby day, as will his ability to handle 10 furlongs.
6. Soldat (14) Worked his way back into the Derby frame in a big way last weekend at Palm Meadows. Whether or not it every stops raining in the Midwest, it will be of little consequence to this guy. He doesn’t care what the surface in like under foot.
7. Nehro (13) Bandwagon continues to grow with each passing day thanks to his whirlwind finishes, especially in Hot Springs. Don’t be surprised if he proves to be the underlay of Derby 137--or proves to be the best colt, for that matter.
8. Master Of Hounds (9) Derby dosage fans are all over this guy. Indeed, we’ve never seen a pedigree containing 12 points in the Solid category, the stamina wing of his dosage profile. Very game second on demanding Tapeta when narrowly beaten in UAE Derby.
9. Pants On Fire (8) Louisiana Derby winner has shown consistency and courage and is currently working bullets at Palm Meadows. Like the Macho Man, has six decades of Derby history working against him. This year that might not matter.
10. Midnight Interlude (5) Baffert down to his last bullet with a colt that has less Derby history going for him than Pants On Fire. His Santa Derby effort was extraordinary but is he really this good? Churchill workout left a little something to be desired.