There are many intriguing storylines to choose from only two weeks from the Breeders Cup Classic. Havre de Grace is trying do something Zenyatta or Rachel Alexandra never did. Beat males at 10 furlongs over dirt in a grade one. She is also trying to get her second win against males this year, in as many tries. Tizway and Flat Out both have heartwarming stories as they try to put their days of injury plagued seasons behind them and rise to the pinnacle of the sport. However, none of these horses, not even Havre de Grace, can come close to the story of Uncle Mo.
After quickly stamping himself as one of the most impressive and brilliant juveniles in recent history in only three starts, the Two-Year Old Champion, seemingly fell from grace after finishing third in his final prep for an assault on the Kentucky Derby. He was later taken off the trail all together and it was found that he had a rare liver ailment, Cholangiohepatitis. After being diagnosed his return to racing was uncertain, since the disease could end up being chronic. However, owner Mike Repole refused to give up on his colt, giving him every chance he could, and miraculously the colt began to improve. His dull coat began to regain its healthy sheen, he began to put on weight, and the listlessness began to fall away to the spunky personality he showed as a juvenile.
It would be four months, but Uncle Mo finally made it back to the track. He ran valiantly in his return, a load edition of this year’s King’s Bishop, to finish second. No ordinary horse could have given such a performance of a liver ailment that sidelined them for four months, but Uncle Mo ran like a champion. There were rumors that Repole was considering retirement after the loss, but they turned out to be false, as the owner pressed on, entering his star in the Kelso Stakes. Uncle Mo routed his older rivals, winning in a jaw dropping 1.33 4/5ths and receiving a 118 BSF, the second highest this year of any horse.
By all rights, this horse should not even be favored in the Classic or even be entered in any Breeders Cup event. Any normal horse would not be expected to be at the required level of fitness to compete in the Breeders Cup, but again, with every race he has run, Uncle Mo continues to improve he is far from normal. There are questions surrounding his readiness off of just two starts, neither over a mile. There are doubts surrounding his ability to get the distance based on his breeding, but despite it all Uncle Mo looks to be one of the favorites.
His story beats them all because he is the one who captured our hearts and became a champion, only to nearly fall victim to a rare illness that nearly destroyed his career, and is now trying to do something extraordinary. Churchill Downs was the sight his biggest career win, and after everything, he is attempting to come full circle in the Classic. Should he win there is no doubt he would become Champion Three-Year Old. It doesn’t end there though, should he win, he will most likely win Horse of the Year.
Call him a miler, call him overrated and overhyped, but this is a champion by title and by heart. He is a fighter and it is he alone who gives the much needed spice to the Classic. Should he fall short, ridicule should not be what awaits him, it should be applause, because not since Seattle Slew has such a comeback been attempted. He is the definition of “comeback kid.” He is the definition of a champion and one thing you can expect Classic day is that he will be there fighting to the bitter end. Win or lose, he is a fighter and a champion.