Updated on 11/03/2011 10:11AM

Breeders' Cup: Uncle Mo gets post 12 of 13 in Classic

Barbara D. Livingston
Uncle Mo is out to cap a steady comeback campaign with a BC Classic victory.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – What a difference half a year has made for Uncle Mo, who on the first Saturday in May was sidelined from a Kentucky Derby many previously had expected him to win, owing to an illness that was not diagnosed until weeks later.

He has made a comeback that is nothing short of miraculous, and on Saturday at Churchill Downs – if the oddsmakers have the public pegged right – will be favored to win the richest race of the year, the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, back at a racetrack where he was at the high point and low point of his career.

STEVEN CRIST: Breeders' Cup final entries and fun facts »

Uncle Mo on Monday drew post 12 in a field of 13 for the Classic, and was installed as the favorite on the lines of both Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form’s national handicapper, and Mike Battaglia, the linemaker at Churchill Downs. Uncle Mo is 3-1 on Watchmaker’s line, 5-2 with Battaglia.

Both Watchmaker and Battaglia agreed that Havre de Grace, the lone filly in the race, is the second choice. She drew post 10, and was made 7-2 on Watchmaker’s line, 3-1 with Battaglia.

Flat Out, the Jockey Club Gold Cup winner, is next at 6-1 on both lines.

“This is a tall order,” said Todd Pletcher, trains Uncle Mo, “but we’ve come a long way since May.”

Uncle Mo, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile here last year, will be ridden by his regular rider, John Velazquez. Pletcher said he was happy with where Uncle Mo drew.

“The only thing I dreaded was the one hole. That’s the only bad post,” Pletcher said. “This gives Johnny plenty of options. At a mile and a quarter, I’d prefer to be out there.”

Havre de Grace will be trying to join Zenyatta as the only females to win the Classic.

“It’s a formidable task,” said Larry Jones, who trains Havre de Grace. “Todd’s happy with 12, so we can follow him around and hopefully he’ll lead us and we won’t get lost.”

A total of 170 horses were entered Monday in the 15 Breeders’ Cup races that will be run this weekend. Six of the races, highlighted by the $2 million Ladies’ Classic, will be run on Friday, and nine, including the Classic, will be run on Saturday.

In addition to those races, the other highlights include an attempt by Goldikova to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile for an unprecedented fourth straight year, and a showdown between the East’s Union Rags and the West’s Creative Cause in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Both of those races are Saturday.

Total purses for the Breeders’ Cup races are $26 million. This is the 28th Breeders’ Cup, and the record eighth to be held at Churchill Downs, which played host to the event last year.

Final entries were due by 10 a.m. Monday, and then post positions were drawn a few hours later. It took 1 hour and 25 minutes to assign posts for all 15 races.

BC GRADED ENTRIES: Odds and comments by Brad Free and Mike Watchmaker »

The final entry stage is the second of a two-stage process. Last week, at the pre-entry stage, horses could be entered in as many as two races. But by Monday, they had to be entered in one race, so Jackson Bend and The Factor, for instance, had to be entered in either the Sprint, where Jackson Bend went, or the Dirt Mile, the choice for The Factor.

There are a maximum of 14 horses who can run in each race, and two races had more than 14 entered. In those races – the Juvenile Fillies Turf and the Juvenile Turf – as many as two also-eligibles were denoted, in order of preference of an international panel of racing officials who ranked the runners at the pre-entry stage.

The also-eligibles can get in only if a horse currently in the main body of the race is withdrawn by Friday morning, which is scratch time for both the Friday and Saturday cards.

Four races – the newly minted Juvenile Sprint, Sprint, Dirt Mile, and Turf – had the fewest entrants, with nine each. Four races had at least 14 runners, and four more, including the Classic, had 13.

The Classic, to be run at the Kentucky Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles on the main track, had 16 pre-entries, but Tizway was injured last week and retired, Gio Ponti went in the Mile, as previously announced, and the connections of Await the Dawn opted for the Turf.

From the rail out, the Classic field is Prayer for Relief (Rafael Bejarano the rider), Flat Out (Alex Solis), Drosselmeyer (Mike Smith), Ruler On Ice (Garrett Gomez), So You Think (Ryan Moore), Ice Box (Corey Nakatani), Rattlesnake Bridge (Calvin Borel), Game On Dude (Chantal Sutherland), Stay Thirsty (Javier Castellano), Havre de Grace (Ramon Dominguez), Headache (Paco Lopez), Uncle Mo (Velazquez), and To Honor and Serve (Jose Lezcano).

Earlier Monday morning, Havre de Grace had her final work for the Classic, and she was timed by Daily Racing Form as going a steady five furlongs in 1:01.79.

Jockey Gabriel Saez was aboard for the work, which took place immediately after the mid-morning renovation break.

“It was like her last work at Delaware before we went to New York,” Saez said, referring to the Beldame Stakes. “She worked about the same.”

Jones said it was “more like a gallop.”

“I wasn’t worried about fitness. I wanted to see how she got over the track,” Jones said. “She never showed any bobble-steps.”

Jones said he would see how Havre de Grace was acting in subsequent days to determine how aggressive he would need to make her gallops leading up to the race. Jones is the regular exercise rider for Havre de Grace.

“Maybe we’ll do a little more,” he said.

Uncle Mo, a day after his final work on Sunday, merely jogged Monday with a pony, and had a brief schooling session at the starting gate. Although Pletcher usually jogs horses the day after a work, Pletcher did send out his other Classic runner, Stay Thirsty, for a gallop the day after his final work.

“I thought he was really good this morning,” Pletcher said. “He was sharp coming off the track.”

At Santa Anita, Prayer for Relief worked a half-mile in 46.40 seconds, which tied for the best time among 56 at the distance on Monday. His trainer, Bob Baffert, also has Game On Dude in the Classic.

Like Pletcher and Baffert, Bill Mott also has two Classic runners, Drosselmeyer and To Honor and Serve.

It was a clear, cold morning at Churchill Downs on Monday. The long-range forecast for the weekend from The Weather Channel is encouraging. Although there is a 70-percent chance of rain on Thursday, Friday’s forecast is for a high temperature of 61 degrees, and Saturday’s high is predicted to be 66, with little to no chance of rain both days.

Classic, Post Time: 7:00 ET Saturday

Purse: $5,000,000; 1 1/4 mile; gr. I





ML Odds


Prayer for Relief

Bob Baffert

Rafeal Bejarano



Flat Out

Scooter Dickey

Alex Solis




Bill Mott

Mike Smith



Ruler On Ice

Kelly Breen

Garrett Gomez



So You Think

Aidan O'Brien

Ryan Moore



Ice Box

Nick Zito

Corey Nakatani



Rattlesnake Bridge

Kiaran McLaughlin

Calvin Borel



Game On Dude

Bob Baffert

Chantal Sutherland



Stay Thirsty

Todd Pletcher

Javier Castellano



Havre de Grace

Larry Jones

Ramon Dominguez




Michael Maker

Paco Lopez



Uncle Mo

Todd Pletcher

John Velasquez



To Honor and Serve

Bill Mott

Jose Lezcano