Fickle is fame and even more fickle is the love of a horse racing fan. Wasn’t it just last year that Uncle Mo was America’s best Triple Crown hope in a long time? He wowed us with a 14 length maiden win, proved his mettle with a score in the Champagne Stakes, and then bedazzled the nation when he blitzed a deep and talented Breeders Cup Juvenile, running three seconds faster than his filly counterparts.
He made a winning three year old debut in the Timely Writer before baffling us when he was handed the only loss of his career, in the Wood Memorial. Uncle Mo was later diagnosed with a GI infection, then later a rare liver disease. With those findings, you would think the public would be willing to forgive the 2yr old champ, but there are still many who doubt him and will even go so far as to say he never even deserved his championship status.
Why is it that after one loss, which came at the hands of a disease, does Uncle Mo get thrown to the wolves? When healthy, Uncle Mo has proven to be of the most dominant horses that we have seen in recent years. How many other two year olds were able to display such brilliance? He earned a 102 BSF in his first start, nearly broke the stakes record in the Champagne, and crushed a brilliant field in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile, while earning a 108 BSF. In only three starts he did more than most horses can achieve in a career. He was in every sense of the word a champion.
In 2011 his doubters howled to the moon when he finished third, beaten less than three lengths, in the Wood Memorial. They smugly said how right they were that he would fade at anything over a mile, calling him nothing more than an overhyped miler. Even now they still maintain that mindset even though the knowledge of his liver disease, makes his Wood Memorial look all the better. Special horses do special things and no ordinary horse would have come close to running in the money when plagued by a liver disease. It was only last year that Devil May Care was floundered in the stretch of the Alabama before she was found to have a similar disease. Uncle Mo hung tough, even when sick, again demonstrating the heart of a champion.
Before his Wood Memorial, Uncle Mo may have started in a nondescript overnight stakes, but the way he won was the way a champion should. He was given a dream trip, sailing along unchallenged on the lead. However, when new-comer Rattlesnake Bridge ranged up along his flank Uncle Mo simply quickened his stride and left his foe eating his dust. What was most impressive was his final quarter was run in 22 and change. I know his early fractions were soft, but even many grade one older horses can run a final quarter that fast with the aid of soft early fractions.
Uncle Mo showed he was a deserving champion as a juvenile, and even though he only has two races to his credit in 2011, he has still shown the traits of a champion. So when one asks me if Uncle Mo is still championship material, I say without a single doubt in my mind that he still is.
Uncle Mo was amazing last year, but … the realist in me is worried, very worried. I must admit I have entered somewhat uncomfortable territory here by taking the negative side of this debate, for I am truly rooting to see a more mature version of last year’s dominating juvenile. The odds of seeing that horse, unfortunately, are stacked against us. If somehow we do, I will be one of his happy fans.
As much as I agree on the excellence of his juvenile season, you lose me when you start talking about 2011. Let’s face it, his three year-old season means very little at this point. He beat a decent horse in Rattlesnake Bridge in the Timely Writer, but it came in that horse’s second lifetime start, and furthermore, he had no pace to run at. After that, Uncle Mo lost the Wood to horses of questionable quality. To this point, Uncle Mo’s career after two, is nothing but a big question mark.
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, Laura. I loved him at two. He was the best young horse I saw in years, but that is not what we are debating here. The question is if we will see him regain his championship form. If the sickness was the cause of his loss in the Wood, that would explain the loss, but how we can expect to see the same Uncle Mo in the races directly after recovering from the sickness? It’s a possibility, but far from a sure thing. Is it not also possible that he simply never progressed after his juvenile season?
Unfortunately I think it is natural for many people to jump off the bandwagon at the drop of a hat; however, assuming that he will come back better than he was in March can either be classified as either a guess, or more accurately, wishful thinking. Whether he would have or will ever handle a classic distance is yet to be determined, and likely never will be. His connections have chosen a tough spot for his return. With in-form tigers like Flashpoint and Caleb’s Posse ready to show him their sprinting prowess, Uncle Mo will have to be really good to win. What happens if he runs a good race similar to his first two races of the year, and runs 2nd or 3rd? I fear that may spell retirement in a heartbeat.
Like I said before, his races this year are neither overly impressive, nor overly unimpressive. In the Timely Writer he had the advantage over Rattlesnake Bridge, and he did what he was supposed to do, nothing more, and nothing less
I hope you are right, I really do, but questions abound … How good or how bad were his performances this year? Would he have won the Wood for fun if he was 100%? If his connections feared for his life just a few short months ago, as they said they did, how can we expect to see his best in his first race back? If we only see 80% or so of his potential, will that win the King’s Bishop? If it is not enough to win on Saturday, will he ever race again?