Heavily favored Uncle Mo lived up to expectations
Saturday afternoon at Belmont Park with a 4 ¾-length victory in the Grade 1,
$300,000 Champagne Stakes that was as swift as it was authoritative.
Sent off as the 1-5 favorite in the field of six, the 2-year-old son of
Indian Charlie dueled for the early lead with longshot I’m Steppin’
It Up through opening fractions of 22.41 and 45.92, and began edging clear
after going three-quarters in 1:10.47. Kept to task through the stretch by
jockey John Velazquez, Uncle Mo easily opened up on his five rivals, hitting
the wire in 1:34.51 for the mile, which tied with Seattle Slew for the
second-fastest Champagne at the distance, just a fifth of a second slower than
Devil’s Bag’s 1983 stakes record of 1:34 1/5.
“He’s obviously a very fast and talented horse and it
looked as if he was doing it easily,” said trainer Todd Pletcher of the
Repole Stable color-bearer, who came into the Champagne off one race – a 14 ¼-length
maiden victory at Saratoga Race Course on August 28. “In a perfect world
you’d be going the first half in :48, in front three lengths, down the
backside. We anticipated these solid fractions; the track was lively today.
He’s just such a talented horse; he’s able to do things other
horses can’t do.”
Finishing second was Mountain
Town, who was 9 ¾ lengths
clear of I’m Stepping It Up. Settle for Medal, Meridian Magic, and
Brother in Arms completed the order of finish. Uncle
Mo’s stablemate, Stay Thirsty, was
scratched to await a possible start in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at
Churchill Downs on November 6, a race to which Uncle Mo gained automatic
inclusion by virtue of his victory in the Champagne,
part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series.
“The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile would be the obvious
goal,” said Pletcher, adding: “I don’t see how a horse could
start a career more impressively than he has. His maiden was as good as
I’ve seen, and then to come back and run 1:34 2/5 in the Champagne is
unbelievable. His times have been exceptionally fast; he gets stronger as he
The victory was also the first in a graded stakes after 26 tries for Uncle Mo’s
owner, Mike Repole, who donned an all-black outfit in an effort to change his
luck and who was rewarded with three winners on the day’s card, including
Run to Grand Ave.
in the first race and Gerard Loves Beer in the fourth.
“It’s been six years as a horse owner, but I’ve been
coming here since I was 13, so it’s really been like….28 years and
it just feels great,” said Repole, 41. “It’s just surreal
right now to have my grandmother, my wife, my parents here. It’s what
horse racing is about. It just feels great.”
Mo returned $2.40 for a $2 win to
his backers in the crowd of 6,858, and with the winner’s purse of
$180,000 boosted his earnings to $216,000, just $4,000 shy of what Repole paid
for him at the Keeneland September yearling sales in 2009.
Pletcher, who won the Champagne in
2006 with Scat Daddy and in 2004 with Proud Accolade, said Uncle
Mo would remain at his barn at Belmont Park until October 26, when he would
depart for Churchill Downs along with others from the trainer’s
Breeders’ Cup contingent.