04/10/2011 11:50AM

Uncle Mo and the Wood, Pt. 2; Other Saturday Thoughts

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After having a night to sleep on it, I still can’t see much that was positive about Uncle Mo’s performance in Saturday’s Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in regard to his status for the Kentucky Derby.

I suppose the best thing one could say about it is that after a 3-year-old debut in the Timely Writer that everyone classified a paid public workout, Uncle Mo might have simply been a short horse Saturday, and that he will benefit, conditioning-wise, from the experience. But Uncle Mo was 1-10 against his Wood field, he had an eight length Beyer Figure advantage over his opponents on paper, and he wound up controlling what looked like a very comfortable pace. With advantages like that, Uncle Mo, even if he was merely short, could have won the Wood in workman-like fashion. But he still should have won, not finish a fading third.

Instead, Uncle Mo’s performance in the Wood, which was his first venture at as far as 1 1/8 miles, raises the obvious question about his effectiveness at a meaningful distance. It also raises the important issue of whether he has moved forward from 2, when he was clearly far ahead of his contemporaries, to 3. If he hasn’t, and that happens to a lot of horses, then this might be a simple case of other 3-year-olds catching up to and surpassing Uncle Mo.

One thing that does bother me a little is how some folks have drawn an analogy between Uncle Mo losing in the Wood at 1-10, and Secretariat losing in the Wood at 1-5 in 1973. While Uncle Mo was the divisional champion at 2, Secretariat was not only divisional champion at 2, he was the first ever to be Horse of the Year at 2. Before he lost the Wood, Secretariat turned in scintillating victories in the Bay Shore and Gotham, running a mile in the latter in 1:33 2/5. And really, the only way Uncle Mo’s loss in the Wood could ever be analogous to Secretariat’s is if Uncle Mo goes on to sweep the Triple Crown, beats a superstar field of older horses in an invitational race in the fall, and then closes his campaign with two awesome romps in major turf stakes going 12 and 13 furlongs. Otherwise, it’s fantasy.

Unfortunately, Uncle Mo’s shocking loss in the Wood overshadowed the determined victory by Toby’s Corner. Toby’s Corner showed a nice turn of late foot to get up and nail Arthur’s Tale. Although Toby’s Corner was 3 for 5 going into the Wood, this was his best effort to date, and it came with blinkers on. So Toby’s Corner, at the very least, is moving in the right direction, and that is a big plus is this year’s suddenly wide open Kentucky Derby picture.

Midnight Interlude, upset winner of Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby, is also moving in the right direction. Although Midnight Interlude was put to a drive with three-eighths of a mile to go and needed the length of the stretch to nip Comma to the Top, who was not under consideration for the Kentucky Derby because the distance is too far, he still deserves some credit. Even if this Santa Anita Derby became a much easier race when first Premier Pegasus and then Jaycito had to be withdrawn, it still takes some substance to do what Midnight Interlude did, which is step up and win a race like this off of only a win over maidens.

But I do think Silver Medallion, who finished fourth as the favorite in the Santa Anita Derby in his first start since he won the El Camino Real Derby two months ago, is one to keep an eye on. Silver Medallion definitely ran like a short horse, yet was out well after the finish.

As I noted in my Saturday afternoon blog post, there doesn’t appear to be much to look for out of the Illinois Derby. The fact that Joe Vann, the extremely rare Todd Pletcher-trained 3-year old not nominated to the Triple Crown, and Zoebear, who went into Saturday still a maiden after five starts, ran one-two says it all.

I’m also wondering what, if any, meaning Lilacs and Lace’s 48-1 upset of Saturday’s Ashland at Keeneland has. My sense is this was another one of those wacky Polytrack results. However, I do think Kathmanblu’s third as the favorite in the Ashland confirmed a feeling I had about her beforehand, which is the races she’s been winning were weak. Kathmanblu must raise her game to levels she has not yet reached if she is to contend with R Heat Lightning in the Kentucky Oaks.

Finally, a word about Misremembered getting caught at 2-5 by Win Willy in Saturday’s Oaklawn Handicap. The way Misremembered won his comeback at Santa Anita last month, he looked like the best older male in the country. But in a handicap division that is a game of musical chairs if there ever was one, Misremembered couldn’t stand the prosperity and went down to defeat Saturday. In his defense, Misremembered was part of a strong early pace. But at this point, it really is a coin flip as to who should on top in the older male division in the Watchmaker Watch. I might even keep Misremembered on top for lack of a better alternative. I am, however, open to suggestion.

Julius More than 1 year ago
Actually wanted to pass comment on Andy Beyers state of the industry piece and the pending doom of thoroughbred racing in this country. Clearly some radical change is needed, and the resurrection lies in off track wagering. After all, "there is no racing without betting". I would propose the following. All major tracks in this country need to push for OTB facilities that in turn would bounce back some bankroll. First line I would suggest would be the reservation casinos. If the major tracks were to finance and help run OTB facilities in these reservation casinos, there would be plenty of bankroll to be made. The biggest drawback to the industry is the difficulty in finding a convenient place to go wager. Look at the phenomenal success of the betting industry in the UK where there is a betting shop on every other street corner. A similar network is needed here to expand handle possibilities and it needs to happen before the industry flounders into insignificance. California would prove to be the perfect testing ground where the proliferation of reservation casinos continues to grow. Hollywood Park, Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields are the major tracks, yet can only attract from small concentrated populations in their surrounding areas. I for one would find a way to play the horses every week if there were a wagering facility within 20 minutes of where I live. There also needs to be more fanfare regarding all major races and not just the triple crown and the breeders cup. Poor promotions by the race presenters leave most people uninformed. Again, the biggest thing that tracks could do would be to spend advertising in every major newspaper to present racing information in the sports section. Every major daily newspaper in the UK has the days races presented in a concise, orderly and easy to read format that keeps people looking and informed. So take the best of what the UK has to offer, study their formula for success, and if you can draw from the most successful practices, perhaps the industry can not only be saved, but begin to thrive again.
Lenny More than 1 year ago
Ok...If you look at Uncle Mo's last race,, just before the 1/8 pole, it looked liked he was going to pull away just like his other races, something happened, and the Jock did not punish him, he knew... I feel the stomach problem had something to do with his performance, and he will come back.. Hpwever, going to the races for 50 somewhat years, ..and all of you out there can comprehend what i am going to say next is....The Factor...settiing a new track record at Santa Anita 1:06 and change in only his 2nd start????...(Baffert said they expected him to win big 1st out)... Never seen anything like that ...in any of my years...Did Baffert simply not let him loose last start??? What happened to that speed?? You will see a different race horse in the derby Believe me folks... Midnight Seranade at odds can do it,, if the top two don't live up to there credentcials.........14 second last 1/8 of a mile will not win the derby...Dialed in is the other above average runner who has a shot...Good luck to me and to you....
Colby More than 1 year ago
Pletcher just came out and now claim the horse had a gastrointestinal infection during the Wood and that is what made him run poorly. If the horse actually did have a gastrointestinal infection which affected his performance I assure you he would have had a large elevated temperature, and if that was the case why was he permitted to run??? Is it just me or does Pletcher find more ways to ruin young good horses than any trainer out there????? LOL And to those who think his Wood effort was not that bad, you have got to be kidding me. He was running against the equivalent of allowance NW3 and at best grade 3 horses, had a lead setting very moderate fractions and then folded in the lane. If yoiu actually think that is the type of pre Derby race profile which will win on Churchills long stretch I have some good swampland for sale in central Florida, its a developers dream, lol. The truth is the rest of his class, even though it is not a great class has caught up to Uncle Mo and he no longer towers above them. For those who hav him in the future pools at 5-2, might as well tear up those tickets, they are worthless. :-)
Denny Putnam More than 1 year ago
Your right Mike Uncle Mo is no Secretariat! I was however more impressed with his last race then you. Although the pace was not all that fast in the wood, he was pressured all the way to the 8th pole, and then opened up a couple before staying on for third. Plus the track was not playing to speed. He should improve off that race. Looking at the older horses, for me it,s Tackleberry. I'll be rooting for him at Charlestown. Looks like i might get another good price too.
Hopeless Punter More than 1 year ago
Regarding the Older Male division: was Gio Ponti retired while I was sleeping?
hialeah More than 1 year ago
Hi, Ahem, and well, yes, I suppose I should have mentioned the abscess on the gum of Secretariat as the main reason for his empty tank on Wood Day of 1973, but I guess I focused on promoting the lone speed, Angle Light. There was only one Secretariat, sorry, won't be another. And it was a condition that the jock, Ron Turcotte, was not aware of and only resolved itself days before the Derby with a 5f drill in 58 3/5 that had the back-stretch buzzing. Ultimately, I think, my point was that the fractions were not so different from 1973 to 2011 but the condition of the horses on the lead was. And it was somewhat obvious that in this years edition, Uncle Mo (remember him?) was not comfortable from the very beginning of the race. Not surprised that he grabbed a quarter, but JVR asked him to gain the lead at the start of the clubhouse turn and that ultimately doomed him as his tank went dry between the Top O' the Stretch and the 1/8 pole. And not to put a bee in anyone's bonnet, but they did most definitely NOT run the last furlong in 12 flat. The final furlong was timed in 12.67 and seeing that Uncle Mo was still credited with the lead at one mile ( in 137.26) and was beaten by a length and a neck ( say 9 yds) and they were running a yd every .0579 seconds then UM ran the last 1/8 in 13.18. And blowing like the 5:15 pulling out of the station. So, I'd say, the horse needed the race, but many think the horse's pedigree says “No Way”. Can Uncle Mo win the Derby? Well someone has to. Those are the rules (I looked them up). But I am reminded of a scene in the movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” where Jeff Spicoli played by Sean Penn has a confrontation with the teacher Mr. Hand played by Ray Walston (My Favorite Martian) – it went something like this... “Mr. Spicoli? Why do you shamelessly waste my time like this? “ “I don't know.” “I like that. 'I Don't Know.' That's nice. ( Mr. Hand writes “I don't know” on the blackboard and underlines the words) “Mr. Hand, will I pass this class?” Gee, Mr. Spicoli, I don't know! You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to leave your words right up here for all my classes to enjoy, giving you full credit of course, Mr. Spicoli.” Will Uncle Mo win the Derby? I don't know. Who will win the Derby? I don't know. Will I ever go and enjoy another day at a Grade One race in New York? I, err, well it's not the best answer ever time.
wilson More than 1 year ago
Dialed In wants the distance. You can't say that about almost anyone else in the Kentucky Derby this year. Did you see how long he sustained his drive in the Florida Derby? The Florida Derby can and should have tightened him up. Sure he isn't perfect as he could have more tactical speed. All along he has reminded me a little of Blame and that running style has proven successful at Churchill Downs. Like last year's Derby and BC Classic the only horses than can win are the ones that can get the distance, so I'd worry about distance limitations before I'd worry about running style. Passing 19 milers won't be the toughest chore in the world for Dialed In if he does indeed move forward for his next race. If he can come from the back at Gulfstream he can do it at Churchill and Pimlico as well. Don't sleep on this Triple Crown contender he is the only one that looks to get Classic distances at this point in this class. Due to this suspect 3 year old class and his own talent Dialed In is indeed a Triple Crown threat this year. In my opinion.
Inquiry More than 1 year ago
I believe Secretariat had an abcess in his gum when he ran in the Wood. Groom Eddie Sweat broke this abcess prior to the Kentucky Derby and the Big Hoss was ready to go at Churchill. As far as Uncle Mo it looks like he did not have a physical problem we know of in the race. In response to Keroquackian, I think it is a little foolish to eliminate Mo on the pedigree angle, more specifically Indian Charlie. IC did finish 3rd in the Derby. Runners have won the Derby with speed influences(at least going by their race records) of Elusive Quality(confirmed miler), Smile(Eclipse sprinter winner and runner up in BC sprint), Distorted Humor(best at 7F to mile), etc. Even Secretariat was criticized pedigree wise for the Derby by being a son of Bold Ruler. Obviously those folks discounted the Princequillo distance and temperment influence on the bottom of Secretariat's pedigree.
howard v More than 1 year ago
My first pick for the derby was Comma to the Top, but now after my original pick is having so much trouble and the weekend losses of some of the "other good 3 year olds" I am reopening my search. I still don't have a good feeling about any of them. Looks like another long shot to win the derby. I'm surely open to other thoughts.aolic b
Charles E. Martin More than 1 year ago
Uncle Mo may not have the right stuff to bring home the roses. I know the public loves this horse. But he just ain't got what it takes. Sad.