Updated on 11/08/2011 12:45PM

Breeders' Cup: Uncle Mo struggles with track in 10th-place Classic finish

Barbara D. Livingston
Uncle Mo is unsaddled after a 10th-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic, possibly the last race in his career.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – There was no fairy-tale ending to Uncle Mo’s comeback.

A star-crossed 3-year-old campaign for last year’s 2-year-old champion colt ended on a sour note as Uncle Mo finished 10th in Saturday’s $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. The Classic result came one year after Uncle Mo won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile over this same Churchill Downs track.

However, trainer Todd Pletcher doesn’t believe it was the same Churchill track at all.

“This is a completely different surface than we ran on a year ago,” Pletcher said immediately after the race. “There’s obviously a lot more clay in it; it took forever to dry out. It’s still very wet underneath. It wasn’t meant to be.”

Watching the race on a television in the horseman’s lounge – the same place he watched Super Saver win the 2010 Kentucky Derby – Pletcher said he could tell early on that Uncle Mo wasn’t handling the racetrack. Uncle Mo, under John Velazquez, stalked Game On Dude from second, but Pletcher said Uncle Mo’s head was bobbing up and down, an indication to him that he was fighting the surface, which was labeled fast.

Uncle Mo, the third choice at 5-1, was within a half-length of Game On Dude at the quarter pole, but by the three-sixteenths pole he was done. Uncle Mo finished a nose in front of stablemate Stay Thirsty, who was 11th. They were both beaten about seven lengths by Drosselmeyer.

“I went past the wire, he was fighting me, then he’s kind of slipping and sliding,” Velazquez said. “Going to the first turn, it seemed like he was having a hard time with it. He got to the backside, it seemed like he never got a hold of it. He was pulling, but never in a good comfortable rhythm. He struggled the whole way around.”

Said a disappointed Pletcher: “I know he’s a much better horse than that. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to prove it.”

It remains to be seen if this was Uncle Mo’s last race. In the spring, Uncle Mo was forced to scratch from the Kentucky Derby due to what was eventually diagnosed as cholangiohepatitis, a rare liver disease, that veterinarians deduced was not life-threatening, but likely career-ending.

Uncle Mo, owned by Mike Repole, did made it back to the races, finishing second to Caleb’s Posse in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop in August before winning the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap at a mile at Belmont on Oct. 1, a race in which he earned a 118 Beyer Speed Figure. Uncle Mo was pre-entered for both the Classic and the Dirt Mile, but was always being pointed to the Classic, at 1 1/4 miles.

“Everyone will blame the distance, I don’t think it mattered what distance we ran on this track the way it is,” Pletcher said.

In the fall, Repole announced that he had sold a significant portion of Uncle Mo’s breeding rights to Ashford Stud, the North America branch of Coolmore.

Repole said that Uncle Mo would undergo both an external and internal physical examination in the coming days to see if there any problems.

"For him to run that bad, can it just be the track?" Repole said. "He wouldn’t have won if it was six furlongs, a mile, or a mile and a quarter. I’m surprised I’m not as disappointed as I thought I’d be. It’s easier to finish second-to-last and third-to-last than it is to finish second and third."

If Uncle Mo is retired, he does so with 5 wins from 8 starts and career earnings of $1,606,000.