Uncle Mo Stands Alone

Zipse’s Kentucky Derby Daily – Day 29

The inclination to want to beat the favorite is a natural one. Most years on the Derby Trail, I happily fall into that pattern. Picking the Kentucky Derby favorite all spring is not nearly as much fun as tabbing a horse that is not so highly regarded. Some years though are different. The favorite is the real deal, in my estimation, and the rest just do not stack up. This year has become such a year. Despite the shortcoming of Uncle Mo being largely untested this year, and that will likely continue in tomorrow’s $1 million Wood Memorial, he showed enough last year for me to believe that he is far and away the cream of this crop. Yesterday’s disappointing announcement that Premier Pegasus was injured and is off the Derby trail tipped the scales further to the unbeaten champion.

In recent weeks I had come to the conclusion that PrePeg was the one horse who may be able to upset Uncle Mo’s apple cart, much the way Sunday Silence put a halt to Easy Goer’s invincibility. Now he is gone. As is super juvenile Kantharos, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile second, Boys at Tosconova, and third, Rogue Romance. All off the rose hunt due to injuries. Uncle Mo’s chances are certainly enhanced because of these injuries, but it is not only the physical setbacks of others that are making Uncle Mo a bigger favorite. The lack of strong contenders stepping up and showing that they are legitimate stars in the making have also pushed Uncle Mo farther up the mountain.

Horses like Mucho Macho Man, Soldat, To Honor and Serve, Sway Away have majorly underachieved relative to expectations in their latest race. Jaycito, Brethren, and Astrology have not capitalized yet on their lofty ratings from 2010. Machen and Elite Alex have not stepped up as they moved into stakes company. The list goes on. One by one, Uncle Mo looks stronger as he relaxes in his stall. Even his own stablemate Stay Thirsty seems to be ready and willing to move meekly out of Mo’s path of destiny. Sure many of these horses have excuses, and it is not too late to show us something in the next 29 days, but right now none look to be the horse who can knock of that talented champion who cruised home under the twin spires so impressively last autumn in the Breeders’ Cup.

That leaves Dialed In, a horse with no early speed, and The Factor, a horse with no early restraint, as the pair that many will point to as the most likely to derail the coronation of Uncle Mo. I have my doubts. With the defection of Premier Pegasus, Dialed In moved up to #2 on my list, but this is a horse who could not break 1:50 on a fast Gulfstream Park track a few days ago. The Factor is fast, no dispute there, but winning after a pressured pace going 1 ¼ miles does not seem very likely to this experienced Derby watcher.

We will learn more in the Wood Memorial and several other races in the next few weeks, but I have a feeling this opinion may only get stronger. At a young age my father used to like to tell me the “cream will rise” (to the top). It seems to me that this year it is happening even before the horses get to Louisville.

Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to HRN, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing webcast HorseCenter, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves on the Board of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars and is a Vox Populi committee member. He is a voter for racing's Hall of Fame, as well as a weekly NTRA poll voter. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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