03/14/2011 1:45PM

Uncle Mo in Kentucky Derby fast lane for his owner

Bob Coglianese
Owner Mike Repole leads Uncle Mo after their Timely Writer victory.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Mike Repole watched the replay of the Timely Writer Stakes for about the 15th time while surrounded by family and nearly 50 friends in his suite located high atop the grandstand here early Saturday evening. And his Uncle Mo looked just as impressive winning the race the 15th time around as he did the first.

“I think the great ones know they’re great,” Repole said after watching the Timely Writer one final time. “He stuck out when he was on J.J. Crupi’s farm, he stuck out when he was on Todd’s farm, he stuck out when he broke his maiden on Travers Day at Saratoga, and he even stuck out on Breeders’ Cup day when running a faster number on the Sheets than either Blame or Zenyatta.”

KENTUCKY DERBY NEWS: Track all the 3-year-olds on the Triple Crown trail

Repole was enjoying the moment as he and his 2-year-old champion were back in the limelight once again after taking four months off to prepare for a run the New York native hopes will end up putting them in the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs on May 7.

“Today was a very special day,” said Repole. “And you know what the biggest thrills were for me? Not the way he ran and won the race. It was seeing all the flashbulbs popping and hearing the cheers from the fans as well as having my grandmother, mother, father, and so many of my friends here with me to enjoy it all.”

Repole, who also owns a second Kentucky Derby candidate, Gotham winner Stay Thirsty, says he understands how fortunate he is to have two such talented 3-year-olds at this point of the season.

“Right now I’d be happy just to have Stay Thirsty as my once-in-a-lifetime horse,” said Repole. “To have purchased only 15 2-year-olds and have two potential Derby starters is not right. It’s not normal. And I know this ride could end two hours from now or two years from now.”

The big question at the moment is where will Uncle Mo run next. Repole has repeatedly said since Breeders’ Cup day that his final Derby prep would come in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 9. But he softened that stance just a bit on Saturday.

“When it comes to my horses I give opinions and ask questions, but at the end of the day Todd makes the decisions,” Repole said referring to trainer Todd Pletcher. “I grew up in New York, and my preference is for Uncle Mo to run in the Wood. But if Todd Pletcher tells me Uncle Mo is going to run next in the Florida Derby, he’ll run in the Florida Derby and if he tells me Uncle Mo will run in the Wood, he’ll run in the Wood. All I know right now is that Stay Thirsty will be in one prep, Uncle Mo in the other, and whether it’s Stay Thirsty or Uncle Mo, the Florida Derby is going to be some race.”

Gulfstream Park’s decision to create the Timely Writer and bring Uncle Mo in for his 3-year-old debut paid off big-time both at the box office and at the mutual windows. The track’sice president of racing, Tim Ritvo, said Saturday’s crowd was the biggest of the year and both on rack and all-sources handle showed huge gains over the corresponding Saturday last winter.

“Ontrack handle was up 46 per cent compared to a year ago,and our all-sources handle was $13.1 million, an increase of more than 20 percent over the same day in 2010. Bringing a marquee horse with the stature of Uncle Mo here draws a lot of people and is a bonus for our fans. Hopefully we’ll be able to have him back again for Florida Derby day.”

Another feature that is sure to draw plenty of interest during the upcoming week is the 10-cent Rainbow Six, which will have a carryover of nearly $293,000 when racing resumes on Wednesday. That is the highest total in the pool since the meet began.

To take down the pick six jackpot, a bettor must not only pick all six winners in the sequence but have the only winning ticket on a given day.

Pluck headed to Transylvania

Trainer Graham Motion said Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Pluck, who finished a disappointing fourth as the 1-5 favorite making his 3-year-old debut under allowance conditions Saturday at Tampa, came out of the race in good order and would be pointed for the Grade 3 Transylvania at Keeneland on April 8.

“It was frustrating and disappointing effort,” said Motion. “They ran the last quarter in 22 and change., and he can’t quicken like that and make up ground over that turf course. Hopefully he got something out of the race for when we move on to Keeneland. The Transylvania was our original plan, but he was ready and we needed to get him started.”

Motion’s first major goal for Pluck this season is either the French or Irish Guineas during the spring.