09/08/2011 3:01PM

Belmont: Uncle Mo probably headed to Kelso

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Tom Keyser
Uncle Mo, finishing second in the King's Bishop, will probably run in the Kelso on Oct. 1 instead of the Pennsylvania Derby a week earlier.

ELMONT, N.Y. − Uncle Mo, beaten a nose in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop in his first start in 140 days, will “most likely” make his next start in the Grade 2, $200,000 Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park on Oct. 1, owner Mike Repole said Thursday.

Repole gave several reasons why he and trainer Todd Pletcher felt the Kelso, run as a one-turn mile, made more sense for Uncle Mo’s second start off a layoff than the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby run at 1 1/8 miles a week earlier. Repole also emphasized that running in the Kelso wouldn’t preclude Uncle Mo from running in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at 1 1/4 miles on Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs.

Uncle Mo, last year’s 2-year-old champion, was scratched out of the Kentucky Derby the morning before the race with what was eventually diagnosed as a rare liver disorder. He entered the Grade 1 King’s Bishop at Saratoga on Aug. 27 having not run since the April 9 Wood Memorial, in which he was third. He put in a strong performance in the King’s Bishop, getting beat a nose by Caleb’s Posse in the final jump.

Repole, who in the heat of the moment hinted that Uncle Mo might not race again, said subsequent internal tests on Uncle Mo came back “good” and that the horse is doing well physically.

“After coming back in such spectacular fashion in the King’s Bishop, it gives him an extra week, and that is a big factor for us,” Repole said of why he is leaning toward the Kelso. “It’s five weeks from the King’s Bishop and five weeks before the Breeders’ Cup; the spacing of the race is perfect.

“The second factor is Belmont is his home,” he said. “He’ll be able to work over the track two or three times, we’re keeping him on a surface that we know he likes, and that he’ll be on for the next four weeks.”

Repole said that even though the Kelso − which is expected to draw Grade 1 winners Jackson Bend and Jersey Town − is a tougher race against older horses compared with the richer Pennsylvania Derby versus 3-year-olds, he believes the Kelso is “what’s best for the horse.”

Repole said choosing the Kelso for Uncle Mo’s next start doesn’t mean he will be pointed to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile as opposed to the Breeders’ Cup Classic at 1 1/4 miles.

“I asked Todd, ‘If we go to the Classic, can we get him fit enough to go a mile and a quarter?’ and he assured me that wouldn’t be an issue,” Repole said.

As of Thursday, Uncle Mo was still in Saratoga. On Thursday, Pletcher left New York to travel to Keeneland for the upcoming yearling sales, which begin this weekend.

Repole said plans still call for Stay Thirsty, the Travers and Jim Dandy winner, to run in the Jockey Club Gold Cup on Oct. 1, the same day as the Kelso.