11/09/2010 3:49PM

Uncle Mo, To Honor and Serve, and the 2011 Triple Crown


With the tenor of another polarizing Horse of the Year debate already starting to take a disappointing turn like it did last year, I thought it would be nice for a second to discuss something that should make everyone happy.

(But just so there is no misunderstanding, for the record, I believe combined victories in the Foster, Whitney, and Breeders' Cup Classic is greater than combined victories in the Santa Margarita, Apple Blossom, Vanity, Clement Hirsch, and Lady's Secret, and I wonder how anyone could legitimately argue otherwise. And yes, last year I thought victories by a filly over males in the Preakness, Haskell, and Woodward was ever-so-slightly greater than a victory by a mare over males in the BC Classic.)

WATCH REPLAY: 2010 Breeders' Cup Juvenile

Anyway, it sure looks like we might be in for a special Triple Crown season in 2011. Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Uncle Mo is a huge talent. One would be hard pressed to find a horse who began his career any more impressively than this colt has. As compelling as Uncle Mo's 14 1-4 length debut victory at Saratoga good for a 102 Beyer Figure and his 4 3-4 length domination of the Champagne were, his score on Saturday was something else.

As I noted during my live blog updates from Churchill during the Breeders' Cup, I was most impressed with the way Uncle Mo for the first time in his life conceded the early lead to another opponent while at the same time making his first start around two turns. That kind of willingness to adapt could be a huge asset for Uncle Mo down the road, for while he is out of an Arch mare, he is by Indian Charlie, and there aren't many of those who really want 1 1-4 miles.

Then again, Uncle Mo has truckloads of talent, and that can compensate for a lot. The 108 Beyer he earned in the Juvenile was the second highest since Beyers were first published for this race in 1991. The highest Beyer ever in the Juvenile was War Pass's 113 in 2007. But that Juvenile was run over a sloppy, sealed track, and we all know that conditions like that can often produce aberant, untrustworthy figures.

There was another highly talented 2-year-old who also won on Saturday, but he has unfortunately been lost in all the Breeders' Cup hullabaloo, and I think he deserves a mention. To Honor and Serve, who won Saturday's Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct, is an absolute running fool. He has only raced three times, and his only loss came in his debut at Saratoga when he was second after breaking slowly in a big field and then checking late when the winner came over on him. To Honor and Serve came back to get his maiden win in an off-the-turf route at Belmont by almost nine lengths with a 95 Beyer, and then he took the Nashua by four with a 97 Beyer. Yes, To Honor and Serve was a tick under 2-5 in the Nashua and he wasn't in with much, so he was supposed to win. But he was only asked to run for about a sixteenth of a mile in upper stretch. Even then, only the reins were shaken at him, and yet he still crushed.

Like Uncle Mo, who is trained by Todd Pletcher, To Honor and Serve is in top hands. He's trained by Bill Mott. And To Honor and Serve is by Bernardini (seriously, is there a Bernardini who can't run?) out of a Deputy Minister mare, so I can't wait to see what he does when he finally gets to do what he is meant to do: go two turns.