03/13/2011 1:48PM

Uncle Mo, and Other Saturday Happenings

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Uncle Mo’s successful 3-year-old debut Saturday in Gulfstream Park’s Timely Writer Stakes was not, unlike each of his three performances last year, the sort of effort that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Uncle Mo’s four opponents Saturday were seriously overmatched – although I do think runner up Rattlesnake Bridge has a chance to be a nice horse – and the preliminary 89 Beyer Figure Uncle Mo earned was pedestrian by his lofty standards. The thing is – and this is what distinguishes him from every one of his contemporaries – Uncle Mo’s comeback did not have to be anything more than it was.

Consider, for example, Uncle Mo’s stable mate Stay Thirsty, who earned an indentical 89 Beyer when he won last week’s Gotham Stakes in his 3-year-old bow. Like Stay Thirsty, Uncle Mo was making his first start in four months, so like Stay Thirsty, Uncle Mo has every license to benefit from his return and run much faster in subsequent outings. The difference here, however, is that while Stay Thirsty has a right to show significant improvement in his upcoming starts, there is no guarantee that he will. And that is because Stay Thirsty has never run faster than the 89 Beyer he earned in the Gotham.

Uncle Mo, on the other hand, ran from five to 18 Beyer points faster in his three starts at 2 when a less mature race horse. In other words, we already know that Uncle Mo is capable of running much faster than he did in the Timely Writer. It is, indeed, his default position. So he didn’t have to show it again Saturday. In fact, that Uncle Mo was able to slow down in the Timely Writer and produce sleepy fractions of 25.53 seconds and 49.58 could be taken as more noteworthy than just another display of sheer brilliance. That ability to relax early could be a key asset when it comes to him negotiating 10 furlongs in the Kentucky Derby.

The chasm between the already proven ability to run fast and the promise of potentially being able to do so was underscored Saturday by Brethren, yet another of Uncle Mo’s barn mates. Many expected Brethren, who, like Uncle Mo, was 3 for 3 going into the Tampa Bay Derby, to make a big move forward off the 84 Beyer he earned in the Sam Davis Stakes in his 2011 bow, a figure that only equaled the two he received as a juvenile. (UPDATE, Monday, 3 pm - I just received word that the Beyer folks bumped the winning Sam Davis Beyer up to 85). That’s why he was the 1-2 favorite. It turned out that Brethren had no move forward in him, at least at this point in time. Brethren wound up being exposed by the 43-1 Watch Me Go and the 86-1 Crimson Knight, who was claimed for a princely $16,000 in his prior start. Neither Watch Me Go nor Crimson Knight are even presently nominated to the Triple Crown, but they finished more than three lengths ahead of a weary Brethren while finishing just a neck apart in a race that was awarded a winning Beyer of only 83.

Instead, the “wow” performance Saturday for 3-year-olds was fashioned by Premier Pegasus in the San Felipe Stakes. Yes, I know the insane early pace battle between Runflatout, Albergatti, and Comma to the Top set the San Felipe up to be won by a closer like Premier Pegasus, and was instrumental in the race receiving a winning Beyer as high as 96. Still, a half mile into the race, Premier Pegasus was only two lengths head of the highly regarded Jaycito, the favorite, a closer, and winner of the Grade 1 Norfolk last fall. Premier Pegasus was 2 ¾ lengths ahead of Jaycito six furlongs into the San Felipe, yet when the two were the first two under the wire, there was a near eight length gap between them. Granted, Premier Pegasus had an advantage over Jaycito of an outing this year. But it should be noted that the San Felipe was the first time Premier Pegasus had the opportunity to go the two turns he was bred for.

A couple of quick thoughts on some other stuff: I keep on expecting Tackleberry to come back to Earth, and he keeps on refusing to do so. He has had some meet at Gulfstream, winning the Sunshine Millions Classic, the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship, and now Saturday’s Gulfstream Park Handicap. Heck, that would be a good year for most horses…After the 45-1 Miss Match nailed the 4-5 Switch in Saturday’s Santa Margarita Invitational at Santa Anita, I decided that nine furlongs is just too far for Switch…Regarding the Life At Ten mess, I was always under the impression that if a horse was not right in pre-race warm ups, it was incumbent on the jockey to say something to someone in authority at the gate. When did that change?