05/01/2011 12:20PM

Kentucky Derby: Uncle Mo's owner willing to put money where his mouth is

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Owner Mike Repole has never been at a loss for words, though he was tamped down a bit after his Uncle Mo suffered his first career defeat in the Wood Memorial three weeks ago. But after Uncle Mo worked in company with stablemate Stay Thirsty on Sunday morning at Churchill Downs, Repole, who owns both colts, vowed that Uncle Mo would return to the position he held for months prior to the Wood, as the favorite for next Saturday’s 137th Kentucky Derby.

“If he’s not going off the favorite, I’ll make him the favorite,” said Repole, who has been known to play a little at the windows.

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Uncle Mo will be trying to redeem himself in the Derby, held at the same site where Uncle Mo clearly demonstrated he was the most talented horse of this crop, when winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall.

Uncle Mo has won once and lost once since then, and had a gastrointestinal infection following the Wood. Sunday’s work, over a sloppy track following a wicked electrical storm earlier in the morning, was his second and final work here in preparation for the Derby.

Uncle Mo, with jockey John Velazquez aboard, started just behind and to the outside of Stay Thirsty, who was ridden by exercise rider Fernando Espinoza. They were on even terms at the finish, so Uncle Mo (1:01.28) was credited by Daily Racing Form with a slightly faster time than Stay Thirsty (1:01.48) for the five-furlong drill.

“Now at least I know I have my exacta for the Derby,” Repole said. “I’m going to box it now.

“In a perfect world,” Repole added later, “it would be a dead-heat, and I’d win two Derbies in one day.”

Todd Pletcher, who trains both colts, called the moves “a textbook-kind of work.”

“Both seemed to handle the going well,” Pletcher said. “It indicates that both horses are fit and coming up to this in good order.”

In addition to Pletcher’s duo, the only other Derby horse to work at Churchill on Sunday was Louisiana Derby winner Pants On Fire, who covered a half-mile in 47.96 seconds. Rosie Napravnik, who will seek to become the first female jockey to win the Derby, was up for trainer Kelly Breen.

At the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, Wood Memorial winner Toby’s Corner worked six furlongs in 1:15.

At Hollywood Park, Comma to the Top was scheduled to work later in the morning.

Anthony’s Cross, who was 21st on the graded stakes earnings list, was withdrawn from consideration on Sunday. Jockey Rafael Bejarano, who might have ended up on him, instead on Sunday committed to Tampa Bay Derby winner Watch Me Go.

Entries for the Derby will be taken Wednesday morning, and post positions drawn later that day. A maximum of 20 horses can run. If more than 20 enter, graded stakes earnings determines the field. There is no also-eligible list for the Derby.

-      additional reporting by Steve Andersen, David Grening and Mike Welsch