The Breeders’ Cup Classic is just that, Classic. It’s a race that makes Champions. Uncle Mo is just that, he's already a Champion. The 2010 series of Breeders' Cup races might have been the most exciting edition in the history of the event. And in the year of Blame vs. Zenyatta in the Classic, Big Drama drawing off in the sprint, and Goldikova's quest for a 3-peat in the Mile, Uncle Mo gave us, arguably, the most impressive performance of them all. Under the twin spires of Churchill Downs, Mo annihilated the competition in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile
Yes, Mo's counterpart, Havre De Grace, has been nearly perfect in 2011. Yes, she's just some "Blind Luck" away from being unbeaten this year. But, in her only start at Churchill Downs (the venue for this year’s Breeders' Cup) she was a well beaten 3rd in last year’s Ladies’ Classic. I have the utmost respect for Gracie, she's proven she can beat the boys, and beat them bad. She's proven she can get the 10 furlong distance. Now the question is, can she do both of those things on the biggest stage in horse racing, in a full field at Churchill Downs. I have my doubts.
I know what most of you are thinking, Mo's 3 year old season can't compare to Grace. I know, I know, Mo's coming into the biggest race of his life off of back to back 1-turn races. But, let's not forget Mo has never run worse than 3rd. His 3rd place finish was in the grade I Wood Memorial where that awful G.I. Infection reared its ugly head. I often wondered, if Mo was healthy this year would we be talking about an unbeaten Triple Crown winner right now?
You said, "Uncle Mo is the closest thing to Seattle Slew that I have ever seen." You also believed after Mo's two-year-old season, that 2011 might just be the year we would break that awful streak and finally have another Triple Crown winner. Mo has been burning up the track since his return to the races. Although, his first start back was a loss, it was to a multiple graded stakes winning sprinter. Uncle Mo pressed an extremely hot pace and just got nailed at the wire; this was off a 4-month layoff where he was recovering from an illness. It was an illness where he was literally fighting for his life. I think that gives him a legitimate excuse to get a little tired in his first race back.
Uncle Mo's last start was “Ghostzapper like.” The grade II Kelso showed everyone that Mo was back! Although, the early fractions weren't blazing, he did go 6 furlongs in 1:09.34. Grade I winning sprinter Jackson Bend made a menacing move at Uncle Mo, but he never flinched, and swatted the Forego winner away like a fly. Mo drew off under a hand ride, winning by an easy 3 lengths. His time of 1:33.82 was dazzling, earning a Beyer figure of 118.
The only question I have regarding Uncle Mo in the Classic, is the 10 furlong distance. Offspring of Indian Charlie are best from the 7 furlong to 9 furlong distance. But, this is where the dam comes into play. Playa Maya is sired by Arch. Ring a bell? Arch, of course, is the sire of last year’s Classic winner, Blame.
I believe Uncle Mo can shock the Horse Racing world and leave Havre De Grace in his dust, do you?
I’m with you there, Scott, it may not carry the pomp and circumstance of the Kentucky Derby, but the Breeders’ Cup Classic truly is America’s best race. Last year’s Classic rivals the most fantastically intense races I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending. And yes, the Championships on the whole last year were strong, with Uncle Mo’s rousing win in the Juvenile one of the highlights. As they say though … that was last year, and this is this year. While Uncle Mo may have well peaked 12 months ago, Havre de Grace is a filly who has been improving ever since.
A relatively new player to the top level of competition last fall, I thought Grace’s 3rd place finish in the Ladies’ Classic was a very good performance. This year she has taken things to a whole new level. Yes, Blind Luck beat her by a whisker in the Delaware Handicap, but Grace has proven to be the most consistently excellent horse in America. She beat Blind Luck easily at Oaklawn, she took down Flat Out in the Woodward, and she made the Beldame look like little more than a public workout. There can be no doubt that she is the frontrunner for Horse of the Year.
Triple Crown? I have not seen anything from him this year that gives me any confidence in that. You mention having doubts about Havre de Grace in the Classic, how can you not have major concerns about Uncle Mo in the Classic. Horses simply do not win the BC Classic off a couple of one-turn races. If he does it, I will be the first to tip my cap to him, but … Uncle Mo is the one in which I say, “I have my doubts.”
Wait a minute, misquote alert. What I said was, Uncle Mo was the closest thing I have seen to Slew, as a two-year-old, since 1977. Now if I said the same about Uncle Mo as a three-year-old, we might be having a different discussion right now, but I did not. The proof of his greatness this year is simply not there. Meanwhile, Havre de Grace may not have the talent of Rachel Alexandra or Zenyatta, but she is doing a marvelous job of going after an amazing three-year sweep for the fairer sex in the Horse of the Year race. That is a fact, not a hope, and I am excited to see if it happens.
Not so fast my friend. Ghostzapper entered his Classic run as a mature four-year-old, and off of plenty of two-turn races to prepare him for ten furlongs. That is a big difference. Uncle Mo may have his kind of talent, but he is certainly not coming up to the race as well prepared. And here is a little hyperbole for you … Havre de Grace’s entire season is “Personal Ensign like” … sorry, I couldn’t resist.
As well you should. I really worry about what Uncle Mo will look like in the final quarter mile of the Classic, and I say that more because of foundation than breeding. I have no worries of Grace getting the distance though. She is a distance horse, and has run in nothing but two-turn races for years now.
Me? No. Listen, they’re both wonderful horses, and as a fan I would be happy to see either win the Classic, but one of them is battle tested and ready, and one is not. As a handicapper, I recognize that Havre de Grace is much more likely to create a classic headline than Uncle Mo.