04/28/2011 2:13PM

Kentucky Derby questions: Uncle Mo and the Wood

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After Uncle Mo's disappointing third in the Wood Memorial, does he deserve another chance?

Dan IllmanAbsolutely. It’s amazing that it took only 1:50 for the once undefeated 2-year-old champion to go from hero to bum in the eyes of some fans and columnists. Sure, Uncle Mo didn’t run well in the Wood Memorial, but considering he grabbed his quarter coming out of the gate and raced on the lead over a track that wasn’t exactly the kindest to speed horses, he deserves a mulligan in my eyes. He still has the same question marks as he did before the Wood − distance, fitness, form − but we know what the “good” Uncle Mo can do. If the “good” Uncle Mo shows up in Louisville − and that’s obviously a huge “if” at this stage − the others are going to have to have their running shoes latched on tight. And for the faithful who remain on his bandwagon, he’ll offer better odds to boot.


Dave LitfinFour factors to consider are preparation, pedigree, price, and pace.

Any 3-year-old who comes out of his final prep race the worse for wear has major hurdles to overcome, particularly in a two-prep situation, and all the more so when the comeback race was essentially a public workout at 1-20 with four other horses. Even assuming all is well, the average winning distance for sire Indian Charlie’s progeny is among the shortest in the prospective field (Fleet Indian is his only Grade 1 winner at 10 furlongs that comes to mind), and Uncle Mo’s stretch fade in the Wood was not indicative of a horse who wanted 1 1/4 miles. So it depends on what sort of odds line you put on an early-maturing colt with a suspect pedigree who has been ailing and had an altered training schedule.

Finally, his task from a pace perspective hinges mightily on whether he can put away several prospective early rivals and still hold off the late charges of Dialed In, Archarcharch, and Nehro.


Mike WelschUncle Mo deserves another chance if for no other reason than because he is definitely the fastest horse among this group of 3-year-olds. If he did have a legitimate excuse in the Wood and can bounce back to his previous form, he is certainly among the win candidates in a wide-open Derby. There are still plenty of questions to answer, including his ability to stay 1 1/4 miles, but after watching the way he trained this week and worked Tuesday, it has renewed my confidence in his ability to be a major player in this year’s Derby.

Heading into the Derby
Fourteen of the 21 Derby winners since 1990 did not win their final prep race

Year Derby winner Last prep race Result
2010 Super Saver Arkansas Derby 2nd by neck
2009 Mine That Bird Sunland Derby 4th by 3 1/4
2008 Big Brown Florida Derby 1st by 5
2007 Street Sense Blue Grass 2nd by nose
2006 Barbaro Florida Derby 1st by 1/2
2005 Giacomo Santa Anita Derby 4th by 2
2004 Smarty Jones Arkansas Derby 1st by 1 1/2
2003 Funny Cide Wood Memorial 2nd by 1/2
2002 War Emblem Illinois Derby 1st by 6 1/4
2001 Monarchos Wood Memorial 2nd by 2 3/4
2000 Fusaichi Pegasus Wood Memorial 1st by 4 1/4
1999 Charismatic Lexington 1st by 2 1/2
1998 Real Quiet Santa Anita Derby 2nd by 2 1/4
1997 Silver Charm Santa Anita Derby 2nd by head
1996 Grindstone Arkansas Derby 2nd by neck
1995 Thunder Gulch Blue Grass 4th by 4 1/2
1994 Go for Gin Wood Memorial 2nd by 1 1/2
1993 Sea Hero Blue Grass 2nd by 2 3/4
1992 Lil E. Tee Arkansas Derby 2nd by neck
1991 Strike the Gold Blue Grass 1st by 3
1990 Unbridled Blue Grass 3rd by 3 3/4

Next: Live longshots »

MORE QUESTIONS:
• After Uncle Mo's disappointing third in the Wood Memorial, does he deserve another chance?
• Which horses are live longshots, and what should their approximate odds be?
• Which horse can't you wait to bet against?
• Which horse hasn't won a prep race but can win the Derby?
• Not one of the most recent major prep races produced a winning Beyer Speed Figure of 100. How does that change the way you will handicap the Derby?
• Which prep race is most likely to be misinterpreted?
• Among the surprising prep race winners, which one is for real?
• Who is the horse to beat?