01/06/2011 5:00PM

2010 Eclipse Awards: Uncle Mo

Barbara D. Livingston

After unveiling one good-looking 2-year-old after another during the Saratoga meet, trainer Todd Pletcher went into the Travers Day card knowing he had yet to take the wrapper off his top model. By the middle of the Aug. 28 Saratoga card, there was no mistaking which colt was best in class.
Uncle Mo, a son of Indian Charlie bred by D. Michael Cavey, rolled to a 14 1/4-length debut win, running six furlongs in 1:09.21. He followed that up with spectacular performances in the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont Park and Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs to not only establish himself as the overwhelming leader of North America’s 2-year-old division, but anoint himself a top candidate for next spring’s Kentucky Derby.

“With the exception of starting earlier in the year, it’d be hard to have a better 2-year-old or a better 2-year-old season,” Pletcher said.

Uncle Mo – slang for the term "momentum" – was purchased by entrepreneur Mike Repole for $220,000 at the 2009 Keeneland September yearling auction. Repole didn’t initially want to bid on Uncle Mo because a year earlier he had spent $200,000 at the same sale on a yearling by Indian Charlie who went winless in seven starts.

Repole’s mind was changed when his team of advisers, including the former trainer Jimmy Crupi, told Repole he needed to buy this horse. Initially willing to go up to $200,000, he made his final offer at $220,000.

“I swear to God if somebody goes $221,000, he’s somebody else’s,” Repole said.

Crupi breaks Repole’s young horses at his New Castle Farm in Ocala, Fla. Crupi was high on the horse when he sent him to Pletcher, who said he knew pretty quickly Uncle Mo could be special.

“We felt as early as June that he was potentially our best colt,” Pletcher said. “Sometimes you know when you’re working babies together. The only way you get a real barometer of how good your crop is, is when you start to run some of them. The one that has been working in company with one that wins and been outworking that one you know you kind of got something.”

Following Uncle Mo’s smashing debut win, he won the Champagne by 4 3/4 lengths, drawing clear in the stretch after dueling with longshot I’m Steppin’ It Up through six furlongs in 1:10.47. Uncle Mo’s final time of 1:34.51 – when translated to fifths is 1:34 2/5 – equaled Seattle Slew’s final time winning this race in 1976. Only Devil’s Bag (1:34.20) ran a faster Champagne at a mile.

“I tend to never be overconfident, but I would have been very disappointed had he not responded the way he had just based on everything we’d seen from him,” Pletcher said.

In the Breeders’ Cup, Uncle Mo was facing five other Grade 1 winners. After stalking the maiden Riveting Reason through six furlongs, Uncle Mo took over around the far turn, turned back a mild challenge from Hopeful winner Boys At Tosconova, and beat that rival by 4 1/4 lengths.

“You always worry in that scenario, you’re shipping for the first time, you’re racing over Churchill’s surface for the first time, you’re going two turns for the first time, coming back in four weeks off a huge Champagne,” Pletcher said. “There are all of those question marks that you’re concerned about with every horse, but at the same time you certainly want to be in the position because you know how yours is acting. So far, he’s delivered everything he’s promised.”

Following the Breeders’ Cup, Uncle Mo spent a month on Crupi’s farm before joining Pletcher’s Palm Meadows stable in early December. He will likely have two preps before the Kentucky Derby.

PAST PERFORMANCES: Uncle Mo's 2010 season PPs (PDF)

KEY RACE REPLAY: Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs >>