09/29/2011 3:26PM

Belmont: Uncle Mo makes Kelso a marquee event

Barbara D. Livingston
Uncle Mo could make himself a focal point of the Breeders' Cup with a strong run in Saturday's Kelso.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Though his résumé this year is lacking a quality victory and he is running in the only stakes on the card that is not a Grade 1, Uncle Mo still remains the most compelling equine figure on Belmont Park’s Super Saturday program.

With a strong performance in the Grade 2, $200,000 Kelso Stakes, Uncle Mo makes himself a focal point of the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs. A poor performance could mean the end of the line for a horse who in 2010 generated one of the strongest 2-year-old campaigns in recent memory.

In the Kelso, a one-turn mile, Uncle Mo will meet Grade 1 winners Jackson Bend and Jersey Town in his first start against older males. The scratch Friday of longshot Sangaree leaves Golddigger’s Boy as the only other horse in the field.

Scratched from the Kentucky Derby because of what was eventually diagnosed as a rare liver disease, Uncle Mo returned to the races with a dynamite performance in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop on Aug. 27, falling a nose short to Caleb’s Posse. Uncle Mo dislodged a shoe in the race, though exactly when or where has not been determined.

“He ran with a twisted shoe for a good portion of the race,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “I’m sure that didn’t help things. He kind of scraped himself up a bit. He did everything except for win; he was on a tough side of a nasty photo off a long layoff. We were really pleased with his effort.”

Pletcher said he has been extremely pleased with how Uncle Mo has trained since. Uncle Mo has strung together three solid breezes, including a four-furlong move in 46.57 seconds Sunday over the Belmont training track.

“He’s trained really well all along,” Pletcher said. “It seems like he’s even sharper out of the King’s Bishop. His works have been keen, even faster than they were going into it. It seems like he’s in really good form.”

It also seems like he’s the primary speed in the Kelso, a one-turn mile race that awards an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5. Last year, in the Grade 1 Champagne, also a one-turn mile, Uncle Mo dueled through hot fractions, put away the speed, and won by nearly five lengths while equaling the second-fastest time in 80 runnings of the Champagne at a mile.

In the King’s Bishop, Uncle Mo was fourth early behind a solid early pace.

“I think he’s going to be more forwardly placed than he was in the King’s Bishop,” said Pletcher, whose horse will break from post 3 under John Velazquez. “I don’t think there are any true sprinter types in this race where there were in the King’s Bishop.”

Jackson Bend, the highweight at 121 pounds, isn’t a true sprinter, but he has found a niche as a one-turn horse for trainer Nick Zito and owners Bob LaPenta and Fred Brei. He strung together two superb efforts at Saratoga, winning the James Marvin and Forego at seven furlongs.

“I would have loved if there was a fast horse in there to go,” Zito said. “But he’s very good right now. I’m glad the way he’s trained. He’s had a good month. I hope everything goes well the next two days. If nothing stupid happens he’s going to run his race.”

Corey Nakatani is aboard Jackson Bend from post 2.

Jersey Town finished second in both of his starts this year – including the Forego – and now stretches out to a mile. Last year, he won the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct. Trainer Barclay Tagg has been very pleased with how his horse has trained up to this and likens the horse to one of his previous stalwarts, Showing Up.

“You show him a brick wall and ask him to run through it, he’ll run through it,” Tagg said of Jersey Town. “He loves to run.”

Kelso Handicap Field



Jersey Town C. Velasquez
119 Lbs
B. Tagg


Jackson Bend C. Nakatani
121 Lbs
N. Zito


Uncle Mo J. Velazquez
117 Lbs
T. Pletcher


Golddigger's Boy S. Elliott
115 Lbs
R. Preciado


Sangaree R. Maragh
116 Lbs
S. bin Suroor