No Agony of Defeat for Uncle Mo

With just a furlong to go in this afternoon’s Grade 1, $250,000 King’s Bishop, it looked like the champ might do it.

Uncle Mo had taken over the lead, from his early stalking position, and was full of run on the inside. There would be only one more hurdle to overcome for the ballyhooed juvenile champion of 2010. A single horse was flying on the outside, and as the two pulled clear from the rest of the strong field, it was just a matter of how soon the finish line would come. Caleb’s Posse was gaining with each stride, but Uncle Mo, making his first start since April was resolute. As the two excellent horses hit the wire, the result was too close to call.

The photo revealed that Caleb’s Posse had indeed got there in time to win the most important sprint race for three-year-olds in the nation, by a nose. For the winner, it was his 5th stakes win and raised his lifetime record to 7 wins in 14 starts. It also represented further proof of his affinity for both Saratoga and sprinting, following his powerful win in the Amsterdam Stakes earlier in the meet. Final time over the fast track was a sharp 1:21.59 for the seven panels.

In defeat, Uncle Mo accounted himself like a champion.  After more than four-and-a-half months off, and recuperation from a serious illness, he had every right to come up short today. It’s hard to call how the son of Indian Charlie ran today, coming up short though. 

Victorious trainer, Donnie Von Hemel seemed to understand what he had just accomplished, and spoke in glowing terms of the horse his charge had just defeated, “[Uncle Mo] is certainly the class of the field as a 2-year-old champion and a great horse, by all accounts,” said winning trainer Donnie Von Hemel. “We’re just proud to be in the same race, and we’re just thrilled to death for [owners] Mr. [Don] McNeill and Mr. [Everett] Dobson.” 
Meanwhile, Uncle Mo’s spirited owner, Mike Repole, found the silver lining in his colt’s narrow defeat, “Listen, I want to win. I think the horse ran great. He came off a liver disease and to lose like that, to come back from a five-month layoff and to beat the speed bias the way he did, by the way – he just came up short.”

The only jockey ever to ride Uncle Mo, John Velazquez, also saw a lot to be proud of in the loss, “He ran awesome. It was a tough task to ask him off the bench. I’m just glad to have him back. He was fighting the whole way around. That’s what I like about him.”

If Team Uncle Mo was a little down after the tough defeat in the King’s Bishop, it would not take them long to rebound, as Repole, and trainer, Todd Pletcher, would go on to win the Mid-Summer Derby in convincing fashion with Stay Thirsty. The same horse that has played a distant second fiddle to Uncle Mo for much of his career has now thrust himself into the #1 spot in the three-year-old division.

As for Uncle Mo, his performance may look even better when it was revealed that he lost a shoe during the running of the race. Any way you slice it, today’s race was a triumphant return to the races – even in defeat.

What’s next for Uncle Mo? A slightly conservative play would be the nine furlong Pennsylvania Derby. It would be a race in which he would be assuredly favored, and could serve to ease him back into distance racing. If his connections have complete belief that he is destined for a second run of superstardom, the Jockey Club Gold Cup would be a stern test in preparation for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. I hesitate to suggest the third option; the hyper conservative option would be to retire the champion to stud.

The Pennsylvania Derby sounds just fine to me.


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Older Comments about No Agony of Defeat for Uncle Mo...

the photo has always favored the outside horse, whats new?
I've been to thousands of races and these young whippersnappers don't have a clue . That photo favored the outside horse after they passed the wire . It was windy and the wire moved forward a milluonth of an inch .
I'm late to the party here, but I would love to see Mo in Indiana! I hope Repole just doesn't retire him.
Bravo, Uncle Mo and Todd! Please keep him running! I'd love to hit my old stomping ground at Philly Park to see Mo!
Always an excuse when Mo loses, shoe or no shoe he was beaten by a better horse today. and the reason Repole is pissed is because he got beat by a Westcoast shipper...haha
If he heads to the PA Derby he'll be a really heavy favorite to win...I think it's a great place to ease him back into the "distance" running. Should be a cakewalk for him if he runs like he did Saturday.
I am hoping for a Mo sighting in pa. I will be there to root him on...truly showed his class even without a shoe..beside all the other trauma he has had to endure this year..yep he is the come back kid!
I'm so happy for Mo! I think if he wins all of his starts leading up to the BC and he is looking healthy and happy, run him in the Classic or the Mile. If not, either don't run him at all, or run him in the Sprint. I love MO!
Great news ... Looks like it will be the Pennsylvania Derby!
I don't see Mo being ready for the Jockey Club Gold Cup or the Classic, but he reminds me a little of Precisionist, and could have a big shot in the Breeders Cup Sprint.
I will be selfish on this one too ... I just want to see him keep running!
  • annmatt · Absolutely!!! Seattle Slew came off a very serious illness early in his 4th year to beat that year's TC winner, Affirmed, and have a great year of racing. It would have been forgivable to have retired Slew at that point in his career, but they didn't, they gave him and racing one more thrilling year. If Mo is physically fit, and by all accounts and the way he comported himself, he certainly seems to be healthy and relished being on the track, then it would be a shame to deny the horse and racing a chance to go on to bigger and better things. Great horses win some and they lose some!!! So what! You get over it and you keep going. I seem to recall an early interview with Repole, back when Mo was still on the Derby trail, that he would race the horse as long as he was fit and not just 7 or 8 and into the breeding barn. He said he was above all a racing fan! He seemed to go back on those statements yesterday, even for a brief moment when he was disappointed. I hope he reconsiders and re-commits to keeping Mo in training. I have a feeling his best racing days are ahead. · 2277 days ago
I would aim for sprints the rest of this season. Next year he can be propperly prepped for longer. I think the Vosburgh and BCS would be awesome. Had this race been six furlongs he would have won, his split for that disntace was 1.09.21, the same as his maiden. That distance, I think may be too short for Caleb, plus we would see him, the Factor and Big Drama all line up in an awesome race. I am not saying he cannot get longer, in fact I think he can and dominate. Right now I think it would just be the smarter thing to do is to go to the Sprint.
For selfish reasons, I want to see him in the Pa Derby. My grand daughter (8yr) wants to see him run, and so do I!! The illness, the meds (horrible that they are), the 4 month lay up and a sprint against the best sprinters???? Mo has nothing to feel but victorious against the odds.
If I'm Todd Pletcher and Mike Repole, I'm over the moon with how well Uncle Mo ran in the King's Bishop at Saratoga today!! Coming off of a 4+ month layoff, and fighting a liver disease that could have killed him besides, you just can't ask for or realistically expect any better than Mo put forth today!! If Mike Lepore is smart, he'll have Todd Pletcher point Uncle Mo toward the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile and Stay Thirsty toward the Breeders Cup Classic. That way, he'd have one of the top horses in both of those divisions come time for the Breeders Cup in November. JMO.
I would be quite upset if they did retire Mo. He ran an incredible race today under the circumstances he had to overcome. He looked very excited to be back on the track and I have a feeling this horse is not done racing.
Mo impressed me today. Very tough for having been what he's been thru.
No, not crazy at all, but Repole only mentioned the Penn Derby and JCGC when I asked him about his future options earlier this week.
Brian, would it be crazy for Pletcher to consider the Indiana Derby for Mo? A similiar path that Looking at Lucky took after questions about his health?

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