05/06/2011 9:23AM

Kentucky Oaks Day at Churchill Downs

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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.

dar More than 1 year ago
The Mo Camp was being very selfish in doing this, and the reporters should dog them for it. Maybe a good public shaming would keep this kind of thing from happening next year. It kicks dirt in all of our faces. Respect is earned and can disapear quickly with actions like this.
SamG More than 1 year ago
Good,he's better off not running anyway.I feel bad for Sway Aways connections but 20 horses are too many anyway and half of them don't belong.I'd like to think the timing wasn't to keep another horse out but I wouldn't put it wast them for a second.Look what pletcher did to Christmas for Liam and Dance City was only in the Ark Derby to make things tough for The Factor.Almost as if to say my star went down now yours is going down too.
woodbine More than 1 year ago
no matter how you look at it pletcher and repole stiffed sway aways connections. they knew all week this horse was not getting to the starting gate. is an ae. list really that difficult? every 2 buck better would like to see this, but who the heck are we? the great unwashed getting a say in this sport, you gotta be kidding.
Walt P. More than 1 year ago
Oliver: There was an article on the DRF site noting the reason Churchill hasn't had one is because of potential logistical problems notifying the media, simulcast locations, and so forth, plus many people who don't follow the sport closely don't know how an AE list actually works (which will come into play in the Woodford Reserve since an AE will draw into that race with the scratch of Little Mike). Churchill likely is going to have to add an AE list next year because Repole and Pletcher have had a lot of blowback from their not holding Mo out to begin with, and although it won't be the case here, it would not surprise me if it's another owner desperate to get into the Derby is denied like that, such owner might take legal action against both Churchill and an owner/trainer in a similar situation and/or take Churchill to court to force them to allow such horse in as a non-betting starter.
Bruce More than 1 year ago
Well..Repole was going to make sure that Mo was the favorite by betting on him. Ha ! He had us fooled. They had zero intentions of running, and left off Sway Away. How about a nice big fine for this, not like the Life at Ten 10K, how about a cool $1 Million. We need to clean up this sport. Mo will NEVER run again.
Steve D More than 1 year ago
I think that the most frustrating thing about racing is that we have tracks jump through ridiculous hoops for safety accreditation or some kind of marketing scheme that won't work (all things that nobody really cares about) yet leaders won't do something so easy implementing an also eligible list. How hard would it be to say "okay, Unlce Mo is out, and Sway away is in breaking from post 20 as the #21 horse"? Really.
Dave More than 1 year ago
This is no surprise - I've been predicting Mo's defection on account of illness or injury since he got thumped in the Wood. It's all about protecting what's left of his stud value. How unfortunate for Sway Away's people.
bob jones More than 1 year ago
Obviously tough choice, but the connections knew for the last few days that the chances of Uncle Mo running were virtually zero. By waiting till the last minute they assured that the next horse in line would not get in the Derby, a once in a lifetime thrill for most owners and trainers. I realize they were hoping for a last second miraculous recovery, but their procrastination seemed very inconsiderate and selfish when it seemed that they were 99.99% sure the last few days that he would not run. Obviously you want to give a horse of this caliber every chance to run, but in this case it denies another horse it's one and only shot at the Ky Derby. Spin it anyway you want, the next horses in line are obvious longshots, but seems a very selfish way to handle the situation, in other words " we will wait until the very last minute to scratch our horse so that no one else will have the oppurtunity to get in". Every person following this story knew for the last few days that this horse would not run.
oliver More than 1 year ago
Why isn't there an AE list for the Derby? At least one that extends to 24 hours before post. It sure felt, from a public perspective, that Mo was an auto-scratch even before the draw.
Randy Brown More than 1 year ago
I'm with Oliver. Bad on the Uncle Mo connections for their damaging dithering. But surely there's a way to allow "alsos" into the field at least before early betting starts. This is hardly the first time this kind of thing has happened.
Mark More than 1 year ago
So, a miracle recovery is less of a longshot than Sway Away winning? Remember Rockamundo, Mine That Bird, and as it turns out, Super Saver last year? I have much respect for someone like Mike Repole who puts a TON of money into the game. Remember everyone, if not for the owners, there would be no game - however, I don't like the sideshow that this became, and I especially don't like the fact that the connections of the excluded horse are in their seventies - they would have enjoyed even seeing their horse run last. I have been to the Derby with an owner friend of mine (with a horse in the race, three times, never run well) and you cannot beat the experience. To deny those people the treat is not good. Anyway, they have also-eligibles in every other race in the universe - why not cut the field to 16 (one gate) and allow also-eligibles? Enough - sorry everyone. Probably sour grapes - if Rosie would have won the Oaks, I would have had the Pick 3 and eight horses going tomorrow! :-) Good luck on Derby Day everyone.