Patience paying off for Travers contender Uncle Chuck

Patience paying off for Travers contender Uncle Chuck
Photo: Benoit Photo
Barry Eisaman boasts more than three decades of experience in training thoroughbreds under saddle and when it came time to hand off Saturday's Grade 1 Travers contender Uncle Chuck to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, he suggested it best to take things slow with the sizable colt.

After not racing as a 2-year-old, the dark bay Uncle Mo colt is undefeated in two starts including a last-out score on July 4 in the Los Alamitos Derby (G3). He enters Saturday's 151st running of the $1 million Travers as the 5-2 second choice on the morning line behind even-money favorite Tiz the Law.

Uncle Chuck was sent to Eisaman Equine in Williston, Fla., after being purchased for $250,000 by owners Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman from the Summerfield consignment at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Baffert has sent many of his yearlings with promise to Eisaman including 2016 Champion Sprinter Drefong, as well as 2011 Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty and fellow Grade 1 winners McKinzie, The Factor, Midnight Lucky, and Lord Nelson, among others.

Uncle Chuck spent just over a year with Eisaman following the September sale and did not ship out to southern California until that following November, when he began breezing at Los Alamitos.

"He was one of the later horses of last year's crop to leave the farm," Eisaman said. "He had various aches and pains during the breaking process that required some time off, but nothing serious. He was just a big, young guy that needed the time. He went to Los Alamitos to (assistant trainer) Mike Marlow, who picks up the baton and gets them ready to go to Bob at Santa Anita.

"Uncle Chuck needed the time and Bob was willing to give him the time," Eisaman continued. "In a perfect world, one would hope that he had more experience under his belt before facing what he must face on Saturday, but Bob wouldn't be sending him out there if he didn't have a legitimate shot."

Uncle Chuck is the most lightly raced horse in the field. However, Baffert sent Arrogate to Saratoga for a track record-setting performance in the 2016 Travers with only four starts under his belt.

Eisaman said any qualms he had regarding Uncle Chuck during the training-under-saddle process were physical rather than mental and noted that he was both well-behaved and quick to learn.

"He always was a big, beautiful Uncle Mo colt," Eisaman said. "The breaking process went along nice and smooth. I've gotten horses ready for Bob for many years. He knows when they're here, we don't need to talk about every horse, every week. Those that need a slow track get a slow track and those that are ready get sent out sooner.

"He was very well behaved," Eisaman added. "You could take him home for dinner and not have trouble with him at the table. He was easy to work with under tack, and he would learn things we would introduce to him at an above average rate."

Eisaman said the strapping Uncle Chuck has a remarkable stride.

"When you watch him work or in his races, you don't get the impression he goes all that fast, but he covers ground like a creature of some sort," said Eisaman.

Having worked with numerous progeny of Uncle Mo, Eisaman said the champion-producing stallion has the tendency to stamp his offspring and added that the same could be said for Uncle Mo's sire, Indian Charlie.

"They are usually dark bay or brown horses with a good body, good bone, good mind," Eisaman said. "Sometimes, Uncle Mo can get people to think that his offspring can be on the fragile side. In the thoroughbred horse world, there are young horses that really just need to develop more slowly. If you give them the time and let them get their act together and get sound, you can be well rewarded for it. The Uncle Mo offspring look like Indian Charlies and that stallion stamped his offspring, too. It's a strong line through the male lineage."

Bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, Uncle Chuck is out of the graded stakes-winning Unbridled's Song broodmare Forest Music, who produced graded stakes winner Electric Forest as well as American classic producing stallion Maclean's Music.

Uncle Chuck is not the only Eisaman Equine alumni in the Travers as Max Player, third in the Belmont Stakes, was also shown the ropes by Eisaman.

Eisaman has a long history with co-owner and breeder George Hall, who owns the son of second crop stallion Honor Code in partnership with SportBLX Thoroughbreds.

"We broke numerous Derby starters for George, like Pants On Fire (ninth in 2011 Kentucky Derby) who won the Louisiana Derby that year, so we've had a long relationship with him," Eisaman said. "This one was a bit of a sleeper. He seemed more like a good, large, hunter prospect than a racehorse prospect when he trained. He was so quiet. He stayed on the pretty laid-back side."

Max Player was a second-out maiden winner at Parx in December before winning the Withers (G3) on Feb. 1 at Aqueduct for trainer Linda Rice.

"She's an excellent horsewoman," Eisaman said of the 2009 leading trainer at the Spa. "Up to the first time she ran him, he was hard to gauge. He wasn't one to advertise himself in the morning. He's got a lot of closing capability and it seems like Uncle Chuck would be closer to the front than Max Player. But if there's a pace up front, he's capable of picking up the pieces."

2020 Travers Stakes (G1)

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