10/01/2011 4:52PM

Belmont Park: Uncle Mo spectacular in Kelso victory

Barbara D. Livingston
Uncle Mo pulls away in the Kelso after turning back a strong bid from Jackson Bend.

ELMONT, N.Y. - The razor sharp 4-year-old Jackson Bend made a charge at Uncle Mo with a quarter-mile remaining in Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Kelso Handicap and the Belmont Park crowd and the racing world was about to find out exactly what last year’s 2-year-old champion had left.

 It turned out he has plenty.

With just a few taps on the shoulder from jockey John Velazquez, Uncle Mo repelled the challenge of Jackson Bend and galloped through the mud to a three-length victory in the Kelso that more than likely will send him to next month’s Breeders’ Cup Classic as the potential favorite even if this win earned him an automatic berth into the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher already have Stay Thirsty, who finished third in the Jockey club Gold cup, for the $5 million Classic, but two shots are better than one.

“If Mo was in the Mile and won and Thirsty was in the Classic and finished third, it would be a decision I would regret for the rest of my life,” Repole said. “Why not take two shots at a race everybody wants to win?”

“If Mike wants to take a shot with two horses in the Classic I can’t give him any reason not to with this horse,” Pletcher said. “I would have trouble thinking he could have run any better than he ran today. It was just a sensational effort. I’m really happy for the horse to get back where he should be. That was Uncle Mo at his best again.”

Facing only three horses with the scratch of Sangaree, Uncle Mo was able to open up a two-length advantage over Jersey Town while only having to run an opening quarter in 23.47 seconds. He maintained that advantage after running a second quarter in 22.56 seconds.

Meanwhile, Jackson Bend, off a step slow was last, 5 1/2 lengths off the pace. But leaving the three-furlong pole, Nakatani sent Jackson Bend after Uncle Mo while racing along the rail and came within a half-length of Uncle Mo turning for home.

It made for some anxious moments for Repole, who thought “Uncle Mo was going to get passed by about 10 lengths and then Uncle Mo kicked into anther gear and said Jackson Bend get out of my way.”

Said Pletcher: “Jackson Bend put in a serious move around the turn. In the form that he’s in obviously, he’s the horse you’re mainly concerned about so I was worried for a second.”

But only a second as Velazquez shook Uncle Mo up and he left Jackson Bend behind.

 “I had plenty of horse,’’ Velazquez said. “So when I asked him to run, he was there for me.”

 Uncle Mo ran a mile in 1:33.82 and returned $3.20 as the 3-5 favorite.

Nick Zito, the trainer Jackson Bend, said he was proud of his horse, who was coming off a solid victory in the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga.

“Not taking anything away from the champion, he was great today but my horse was just as good in defeat,” said Zito, who noted that his horse spotted Uncle Mo four pounds. “I wasn’t too sure if he’d handle the sealed track; he made that winning move like he does and Johnny took his path because he’s so big and so good. If Uncle Mo decides to go in the Classic, Jackson Bend will be tough in that Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.”

Jackson Bend finished eight lengths ahead of third-place finisher Jersey Town. It was 7 1/2 lengths back to Golddigger’s Boy.