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Big Travers Day for Pletcher?

Two days before he is to send out, in rapid-fire succession, three morning-line favorites in three straight Grade 1’s – Hilda’s Passion in the Ballerina, Uncle Mo in the Foxwoods King’s Bishop and Stay Thirsty in the $1 million Travers – trainer Todd Pletcher stood outside his office at Saratoga Race Course and reflected on the upcoming day.


“It will,” he said, “be one of the more interesting days.”


Interesting, definitely, but not the most labor-intensive afternoon of Pletcher’s career. In 2006, for instance, he saddled 17 horses in the Breeders’ Cup, and in 2007 he sent out five starters in the Kentucky Derby. Travers Day, however, will be one of the more unusual, considering the high-profile status of Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty’s outspoken owner, Mike Repole, and the highly anticipated return to racing of Uncle Mo , who was the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby only to be scratched with what was later diagnosed as a liver disorder.


“It’s pretty rare that you’re going to have two 3-year-olds running in races where potentially the $1 million, Grade 1 focal race of the entire meet in some ways is going to be less popular than the one right before it,” said Pletcher. “ Uncle Mo has had a lot of buildup since he came back to us on July 11. When we first started with him, a lot of people didn’t think it was going to happen. But we’ve gotten to this point exactly like we hoped we could have.”


Six timed workouts later (two of them bullets) and Uncle Mo is ready to return to action for the first time since his third-place finish in the Grade 1 Resorts World New York Casino Wood Memorial, which was the first loss of his career. The buildup to his return has been intense, with videographers, photographers and reporters attending each of his workouts.


“We’ve had enough experience on Kentucky Derby days or in the Breeders’ Cup, where it’s not intimidating,” he said. “You have to prepare yourself for all the potential results. Hopefully we’re prepared so that we can enjoy it.”


As for Repole, who scored his first Grade 1 victory last October when Uncle Mo won the Champagne , Pletcher said the experience of having Uncle Mo , last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and 2010’s champion Two-Year-Old Male, knocked off the Triple Crown trail was a learning experience for the owner.


“This spring, he’s gotten a good taste of the ups and downs of horse racing,” he said. “It showed him how tough it can be.”


As if to underscore that, Pletcher confirmed that Repole’s star 2-year-old, Grade 2 Sanford winner Overdriven, would not make the Grade 1 Three Chimneys Hopeful on September 5.


 “We’re still waiting on X-ray results to be read by Dr. [Larry] Bramlage, but right now the only thing we know for sure is that he’s not going to run in the Hopeful,” said Pletcher.


The trainer added that Hour Glass, 12-1 on the morning line for the Ballerina, likely will not run against her stablemate in the seven-furlong race.


“If there are some defections, that could change,” he said. “But we’re probably not going to run.”



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