12/08/2010 3:07PM

Uncle Mo arrives at Palm Meadows to begin Derby push

Barbara D. Livingston
Uncle Mo will winter in Florida. The plan is to give him two starts before the Kentucky Derby, trainer Todd Pletcher said.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Uncle Mo, the early favorite for the 2011 Kentucky Derby, arrived at the Palm Meadows training facility in Boynton Beach, Fla., shortly after noon on Wednesday to begin preparations for his 3-year-old campaign.

Uncle Mo, who is certain to be named the Eclipse Award champion as top 2-year-old of 2010 when those honors are handed out in Miami next month, had spent the past month at Jimmy Crupi’s New Castle Farm in Ocala, Fla. Crupi picked out Uncle Mo for owner Mike Repole and had him for nine months prior to sending him to trainer Todd Pletcher last summer.

“He arrived in good, came in in great shape, and looks fantastic,” said Pletcher who was at Palm Meadows when Uncle Mo got off the van. “He might have gained a few pounds while he was in Ocala, but basically he looks like he’d never left and just the way you’d want him to look.”

Pletcher said Uncle Mo would go into light training at Palm Meadows beginning on Friday.

“He’ll ride under light tack, jog for a while, and return to galloping in a couple of weeks,” said Pletcher. “If all goes smoothly, his first breeze will probably come at the end of January or the first of February.”

Pletcher said he’s still undecided where Uncle Mo might make his first start at 3. He mentioned as possible targets a pair of Grade 2 stakes on Feb. 26 at Gulfstream – the $400,000 Fountain of Youth at 1 1/8 miles and the $150,000 Hutcheson at seven furlongs – as well as the Grade 2, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby on March 12.

“I’m not really crazy about running him a mile and one-eighth the first time back,” said Pletcher. “I won’t rule out the Hutcheson, although I’m not positive I want to run him seven-eighths. The timing of the Tampa Bay Derby is good.

“He’ll tell me when he’s ready. All the races are in play. Right now we’ve got two preps targeted before the Derby. That’s our strategy. Although at the moment, all things being equal, Mike [Repole] is a New York guy and he’d really like to run in the Wood. Timing-wise that works out well for us, so at the moment that’s our targeted final prep.”