04/27/2011 8:58PM

Uncle Mo, Uncle Martin and Aunt Isabel


When most people think Uncle Mo’s human team, they think of Todd Pletcher and Mike Repole (“Uncle Todd” and “Uncle Mike,” respectively, on Mo’s popular Facebook page). Yet there’s another couple even closer to the champion racehorse: Isabel Escobar and her husband Martin Estrada.

Martin is Uncle Mo’s groom and Isabel is the hotwalker. The duo – Martin and Isabel have been together eight years - has cared for a bevy of Pletcher’s best: Flower Alley, Bandini, Ashado, Speightstown, Rags to Riches, Quality Road….

Above:  Martin makes Super Saver look pretty, and Isabel gets a bath from Quality Road.  Saratoga 2010

Both are very serious about their jobs and you won’t find either yucking it up with the media. Martin’s attentiveness to his horses is second-to-none, and Isabel is the horse’s human mother. If Mo starts to misbehave, Isabel quietly scolds him – and he straightens right up. I swear, if he could talk, he’d say, “Awww, shucks, Mom…I'm sorry.”

Isabel, who's seen her share of horses, says that Mo is "smart, extremely smart."  

Isabel is a lovely Colombian woman with penetrating eyes and a gentle, confident manner.  But this week, she’s not quite her usual strong self. Allergies – pollen, specifically – cause her discomfort every time she visits the Bluegrass State, and this spring is no exception. But she still gets up at 3:45 each morning and heads to work. She’s been with Todd Pletcher since arriving in this country in 2003.

Martin, from Mexico, is so quiet you barely notice him working. But when he's with horses – bathing them, doing up the wraps, setting feed – you can see the lifetime horseman within. His horses always look great. Martin’s been with Todd for nearly 13 years now. He and Isabel met on the job.

So, the next time you think “Uncle Mo,” think of the unheralded human team who quietly make sure the champion’s every need is met: “Uncle Martin” and “Aunt Isabel.”

Above:  Isabel leads Uncle Mo into the Belmont barn as Todd Pletcher watches, April 2011

Above:  Isabel and Uncle Mo at Churchill Downs, April 2011.  Below:  Martin (right) with Uncle Mo, Aqueduct paddock before the Wood Memorial, April 2011.

Above:  Martin Estrada, Uncle Mo's groom.  Below:  Isabel Escobar, Uncle Mo's hotwalker, with Mo at Belmont Park 2011.


BELOW:  A variety pack of photos of our 2010 champion 2-year-old, and a leading Kentucky Derby contender, Uncle Mo.....because it's always fun to see Mo photos: 

Above and below:  When it all began.  Uncle Mo breaks his maiden at Saratoga August 28, 2010.

Above:  Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty work in company at Saratoga in early August 2010 - before either horse raced.  Below:  The duo was still at it at Breeders' Cup time 2010, at Churchill Downs...

...and in February 2011 at Palm Meadows (below).

Above:  Assistant Michael McCarthy with Uncle Mo, schooling before the 2010 Breeders' Cup.  Below (three photos):  With regular exercise rider Hector Ramos up, at Belmont Park 2011.

Above:  Uncle Mo and regular pilot John Velazquez, first time past in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs.  

Above:  Mike Repole plants a smacker on Uncle Mo as Todd Pletcher saddles, Wood Memorial.  Below:  Mike points out to his buddy that the huge surrounding crowd is there for him.  

Above and below:  The cast and venue changes, but the pony remains the same.  Uncle Mo at Palm Meadows with John Velazquez and Whit Beckman (above), and Uncle Mo at Belmont Park with Hector Ramos up (not sure of gentleman's name on pony ?).  And I believe, although I wouldn't bet too much money on it, that the pony's name is Thunder Chicken.  Yes, Alysse, head of the Thunder Chicken Fan Club?

Above:  Uncle Mo says "Cheesssssseeee!"  Below:  Mo is an unusually kind, gentle horse - and always appreciative of a pat on the head.

Above:  'Uncle Mike' visits with Uncle Mo days after Mo broke his maiden at Saratoga, 2010. 

Above:  Mo fans at Aqueduct on Wood Memorial day, and below, Mo leads a colorful group homeward.

Above and below:  Uncle Mo (far left), Hector Ramos up; Whit Beckman on pony; Patti Krotenko on Stay Thirsty.  Palm Meadows, early February 2011.

Above:  Hector Ramos goes for a whirl on Uncle Mo at Palm Meadows, 2/11.  Below:  Uncle Mo wears Mike Repole's (and the Mets') colors beautifully.

Above and below:  Uncle Mo and Hector Ramos splash it up at Churchill Downs, April 2011.

Below:  It's workout time for Uncle Mo (John Velazquez up) and Calibrachoa (Hector Ramos up), April 26, 2011 at Churchill Downs.

Above and below:  Uncle Mo - pretty as a picture at Belmont Park, April 2011.