October 6, 2011
Uncle Mo's back with a vengeance
By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
The high speed Uncle Mo train is back on track.
Before the Triple Crown got under way this past May, the spectacular three-year-old thoroughbred was being touted as horse racing’s next big super horse.
The Crown was his for the taking, handicappers told us, and his presence was creating one of the most-anticipated Kentucky Derby’s in years.
But when the horse was scratched the day before the opening jewel, suddenly racing’s glamour division was wide open.
What followed was one of the more non-descript Triple Crowns with no standout and a different winner in all three legs.
But after four months of recovery time from a mysterious liver ailment, Uncle Mo may be back bigger and better than ever.
A win in the Kelso Stakes at Belmont Park last weekend put the shine back on the New York-based colt and re-established him as the stable star of trainer Todd Pletcher.
“I would have trouble thinking he could have run any better than he ran today,” Pletcher said after the Kelso. “It was just a sensational effort. I’m really happy for the horse to get back where he should be. That was Uncle Mo at his best again.”
Last year’s two-year-old champion drew clear of his competition in the one mile event and drew a Beyer speed figure of 118 for that effort.
The racing world has been buzzing ever since, much as it was in the weeks leading to the Derby.
With two starts under him — including a narrow loss in his comeback effort at Saratoga — it’s all systems go for a return to Churchill Downs and the $5 million Breeder’s Cup Classic.
It was in front of the Twin Spires that the legend of Uncle Mo began at last year’s Cup when the colt was a dominant, 4 1/4-length winner of the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile.
While Uncle Mo is likely to be favoured in the Classic, there’s still a question mark. Because he never made it to the Derby, he has yet to run the Classic 1 1/4 mile distance.
“It will be a question mark until he does it,” Pletcher told the Albany Times-Union. “If he is able to get into that same rhythmic style he had (in winning the Kelso), I don’t see the mile and a quarter being an issue.”
Uncle Mo’s flamboyant owner, Mike Repole, figures to have a solid one-two punch for the Classic with his other star three-year-old, Stay Thirsty. The Travers winner finished third behind Flat Out in last Saturday’s Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont.
“Why not take two shots at a race everyone wants to win?,” Repole said when asked about the prospect of his two stars knocking heads in the big one.
Jamieson hits 6,000
In the same week he wrapped up the Mohawk summer driving title and continued his likely march to a third career O’Brien Award as Canada’s top driver, Jody Jamieson hit a career milestone.
The Ontario driver, who earlier this summer captured the world driving championship, won his 6,000th career race when he guided Friendly Amigo home at the Red Mile in Lexington, Ky. The 34-year-old has now guided horses to purse earnings of more than $84 million.
At the recently completed Mohawk meet, Jamieson had 138 wins, 34 more than runner-up, Scott Zeron.
It was a big meet for Tony O’Sullivan who captured his first career Mohawk training title when he sent out 49 winners.
“It means our hard work has paid off and we are seeing the results for it,” O’Sullivan said.
Life in California just got a little better for Ontario-born jockey Chantal Sutherland.
The former Woodbine regular guided Game On Dude to the win in the Goodwood Stakes at Santa Anita and punched her ticket to the Breeder’s Cup.
Game On Dude won’t be favoured in the $5 million race, but he will be seen as a contender based on his win in the Goodwood and the Santa Anita Handicap earlier in the year.
Unless a four-legged star emerges soon, Sutherland may be Canada’s biggest hope for success at Churchill Downs.
“She rides the horse with a lot of confidence,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “You just have to let him run like that.”
Woodbine trainer Mark Casse smashed through the single-season wins record at the Toronto track when Exclusive Love captured the 10th race on Saturday.
It was Casse’s 90th win on the season, breaking the record set by the late Frank Passero in 1995.
“To win more races than anyone has ever done around here is quite an achievement for me,” Casse said. “All I’ve ever wanted to do since I was a little boy was to be a horse trainer.”
Casse, who had 93 winners entering Thursday’s card, set the record in 391 starts. Passero hit 89 on his 415th start of the meet.
Casse, who looks like a shoo-in to capture a fifth consecutive Woodbine trainer’s title, has no plans of easing up.
“You never want to lose that drive to be successful,” Casse said “All it does is make you want it more. That’s something that doesn’t change.”