05/06/2011 9:23AM

Kentucky Oaks Day at Churchill Downs


Kentucky Oaks Day here at Churchill Downs began on a widely anticipated downer when it was announced at 8:27 this morning that Kentucky State Steward John Veitch received a scratch card for Uncle Mo, making official what increasingly became the worst kept secret of the week, that being last year’s champion 2-year-old would not compete in tomorrow’s Kentucky Derby.

The good thing about the timing of this announcement is that it came before Kentucky Derby wagering began at 9 am Friday at the Trackside wagering facility near here, and before on-track Derby betting began at 9:30 am. At the very least, that showed regard for the betting public.

An unfortunate aspect to this situation is the defection of Uncle Mo came after the Derby had been drawn. The big question here, of course, is, could Uncle Mo’s condition have improved enough between the time entries for the Derby were taken Wednesday morning and Friday morning to have allowed the colt to perform on Saturday, and perform up to his capabilities? If the answer is “no,” then all Uncle Mo’s entry in the Derby did was to deny Sway Away an opportunity to run in the Derby. And if that’s true, then that is an invitation for bad karma if there ever was one.

But at the Friday morning press conference announcing Uncle Mo’s scratch, trainer Todd Pletcher insisted that Uncle Mo was not entered in the Derby to keep another horse out, and that every second available to them was needed to assess Uncle Mo’s status. Then again, owner Mike Repole said at the press conference that Pletcher told him at around 10:20 Thursday morning that he did not want to run Uncle Mo. So, make of that what you will.

Anyway, it’s still Kentucky Oaks Day! I’ll be back later with a few updates.

10:39 - For those keeping score at home, the revised Kentucky Derby purse after the scratch of Uncle Mo is $2,171,800. The winner will receive $1,411,800. Nice numbers if you can get 'em.

2:13 - It was just annouced that post times have been moved back 15 minutes because of a tote issue. That means post time for the Oaks will now be 6 pm. It was also announced that Versus has adjusted its schedule and will show the Oaks in its entirety.

4:36 - The handicap division continues to be in disarray as Giant Oak and Mission Impazible, prominent members of the older male division going into Friday, were ineffective in the Alysheba Stakes. In the meantime, First Dude narrowly prevailed in the Alysheba for his second straight victory. First Dude has now won two straight. I would bet there are more than a few folks out there who never thought that would happen.

Delving further into the Twilight Zone, Twice the Appeal is currently co-second choice in Kentucky Derby betting at 8-1. Of course, this is entirely due to the fact that his jockey is Calvin Borel, who has ridden three of the last four Derby winners. I know it's early and there isn't much in the Derby win pool, but still ... Twice the Appeal? Co-second choice?

6:01 - Plum Pretty proved her big margin, big fig win in the Sunland Park Oaks was no fluke as she prevailed in the Oaks, but narrowly over the fast closing longshot St. John's River. Plum Pretty's victory, and the loss without an apparent excuse by Joyful Victory, favorite despite earning only mediocre Beyer Figures in her blowout stakes wins at Oaklawn, was a victory in a sense for the Beyer gang.

The announced Oaks Day crowd of 110,122 was the third largest Oaks attendance ever in what turned out to be nice weather. Let's hope we can beat a discouraging forecast for Derby Day get as lucky weather-wise tomorrow.