09/18/2011 12:30PM

Belmont: Uncle Mo, Stay Thirsty both gearing up for Breeders' Cup Classic

Barbara D. Livingston
Uncle Mo, shown exercising on Sept. 11, will use the one-mile Kelso as a stepping-stone to the Breeders' Cup Classic.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Though they will take different paths to get there, the ultimate goal is to have Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty end up in the same starting gate for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs.

Those sentiments were expressed Sunday by owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher after they watched both 3-year-olds put in workouts over Belmont Park’s main track on a gorgeous fall-like morning. Both horses worked by themselves.

Stay Thirsty, the Jim Dandy and Travers winner, worked five furlongs in 1:01.61 under jockey Javier Castellano in preparation for a start in the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont on Oct. 1.

Moments later, Uncle Mo, last year’s 2-year-old champion, worked five furlongs in 59.53 seconds under exercise rider Patti Krotenko. Uncle Mo will make his next start in the Grade 2, $200,000 Kelso Stakes at one mile.

“I think there’s a very strong possibility that they both show up in the Classic,’’ Pletcher said Sunday in his Belmont office. “It’s going to come down to if Mike wants to take two shots at the Classic or run one in the Mile.’’

Repole made it quite clear Sunday morning what he prefers.

“I grew up watching 25 years of the Classic, not 25 years of the Dirt Mile,’’ he said. “I want to run both of those horses in the Classic then watch it come to down to a Blame-Zenyatta duel down the stretch only it’s Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty coming down the stretch. I’ll be rooting for a dead heat.’’

Forced to miss the Kentucky Derby due to what was subsequently diagnosed as a rare liver disease, Uncle Mo returned from a four-month layoff to run a strong second - beaten a nose by Caleb’s Posse - in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop at Saratoga. Originally, next Saturday’s $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx was mentioned as the next spot, but Pletcher and Repole like the idea of running at Belmont and the one-turn mile as opposed to the 1 1/8-mile two turns at Parx, a surface Pletcher said can be “a little bit peculiar.’’

“I ran a couple of horses in the Smarty Jones that didn’t run very well; little factors like that play into your thinking,’’ Pletcher said, referring to the prep race for the Pennsylvania Derby. “Just felt like at this stage after having one seven-eighths race that this is a good progression - a tougher race than the Pennsylvania Derby - but a good progression.’’

Last year, Uncle Mo won the one-mile Champagne before winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, a two-turn, 1 1/16-mile race at Churchill.

In Sunday’s work, Uncle Mo went in fractions of 12.32 seconds, 24.16, 35.39, and came home in 24.13 seconds. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:11.97 and seven eighths in 1:27.

“Right now, I’d say he’s got a really good foundation,’’ Pletcher said. “He’s had two exceptional works since the King’s Bishop, he has one more breeze and then a mile race; we’re developing a lot of foundation that could have us ready to go a mile and a quarter. We know he loves Churchill.’’

Having run in the Derby, Belmont Stakes, Jim Dandy, and Travers, Stay Thirsty certainly has enough foundation under him, Pletcher said. In his Sunday breeze, Stay Thirty eased away from the pole and went his first quarter in 24.88 seconds and got his last three furlongs in 36.73 seconds. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.40 and seven-eighths in 1:29.86.

“Another standard, textbook five-eighths breeze, just what we were seeing at Saratoga,’’ Pletcher said. “He gets into a nice rhythm and just keeps going. The horse has maintained his form very well since the Travers. We just want to keep him happy.’’

Another notable worker on Sunday was Alabama winner Royal Delta, who went five furlongs in 59.25 seconds, getting her last quarter in 23.56 seconds. Royal Delta, trained by Bill Mott, is possible for the Beldame here on Oct. 1 or the Spinster at Keeneland on Oct. 9.