11/03/2011 10:18AM

Everybody knows Uncle Mo


For whatever reason, Uncle Mo seems to resonate with people. Maybe you watched him run away from the field in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last year. Perhaps you have an Uncle Mo in your family or you know someone who does. People just seem to like this horse.

When “Mo” was sidelined between April 9 and August 27, my 5-year-old daughter asked me numerous times how Uncle Mo was doing and if he was feeling better yet. She even had her grandmother turn on New York’s cable racing channel 71 so she could watch him race in the Kelso last month. I promised to take her to the track the next time he races in New York. Hopefully he’ll race as a 4-year-old and she will get the chance.

I find it interesting that on Tuesday people were telling me how Uncle Mo didn’t put in a great workout. Two days later I’m listening to some experts chirp about how great he looks galloping. I guess those are the ups and downs of being in the public eye.

While I may be the resident harness guy on drf.com, I did spend an entire meet up at Saratoga one year and have a pretty good working knowledge when it comes to handicapping thoroughbreds. So, in honor of the Breeders’ Cup, I have a few of selections.

In the Sprint (Saturday, race 5), I really like JACKSON BEND. He was red hot winning two 7f races at Saratoga before running into Uncle Mo in the Kelso at Belmont Park. He made an impressive move in the Kelso and held his own in the late stages of the stretch against the Classic (race 11) favorite. I expect Jackson Bend to pounce on the early leaders with a big run in the lane.

JERSEY TOWN looks like an interesting horse in the Dirt Mile (Saturday, race 7). He also comes out of the Kelso. At the end of his 2010 campaign he raced well against millionaire Bribon and then shocked everyone in the Cigar Mile. After a long break, he returned on the last day of July (2011) with a credible second-place finish. Next up was another second against Jackson Bend, before finishing a well beaten third in the Kelso. Jersey Town has only missed the board once in a career that includes six graded races and two Grade I events. The 15-1 morning line makes looks enticing.

My Juvenile (Saturday, race 9) selection is the obvious UNION RAGS. Just in case my other selections blow up, I wanted to have a legitimate 3-5 shot that looks much the best on current form. I’m going with two trifectas in this race: Key 10 with 5,7,8,9,13;  5,9,13 with 10 with 5,7,8,9,13.

Switching gaits to Harness

My condolences go out to the family of Stan Bergstein, 87, who passed away at his home in Tucson, Arizona on Wednesday morning. I never knew the man (other than passing him a few times at some conferences), but looking back at my younger years, I recall watching him on TV in the early 80’s. He did it all in harness racing and will certainly be missed.

It was sad to see only six horses drop in the entry box for the rich Messenger stakes at Yonkers. You may remember that only six competed in the Art Rooney, the tracks other major event for 3-year-old pacers. If the track can only get six horses for $401,000 and $307,734 races, perhaps serious changes need to be considered. Combining the races with one big pot is an interesting idea; as is making the Rooney for older horses.

I received an interesting e-mail on handicapping that I wanted to share:

In regard to horses being bet down, I may be incorrect, but it seems that exacta prices appear to be lower than what I would have expected years ago.  I don't know if that is true. And it seems to be more than just increased takeout, so an exacta I might have expected to pay $50 pays in the $30s.  Are bettors getting smarter, or is it that sport is not attracting new bettors and the one still around are pretty good at it?  

His question is a good one. Bettors are smarter now than they were 10 to 15 years ago. Not because brain function has increased, but due to the available resources. Going back in time, a handicapper who did not attend the races live was often left in the dark on the intricate details of each race. Horses which were “boxed” or had “traffic trouble” went unnoticed by the casual player. Nowadays any handicapper can go on the Web and watch replays of races, and in some cases even qualifying races. The general “public” simply doesn’t miss as much as they did in the past.