03/09/2011 3:58PM

Uncle Mo tops Timely Writer; Brethren heads Tampa Bay Derby

Barbara D. Livingston
Uncle Mo will make his 3-year-old debut in Saturday's Timely Writer at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – As expected, reigning juvenile champion and current Kentucky Derby favorite Uncle Mo will kick off his 3-year-old campaign going one mile Saturday in Gulfstream Park’s $100,000 Timely Writer.

The Timely Writer was written last month by Gulfstream Park racing secretary Dan Bork with the hope of luring Uncle Mo away from what was originally his first choice for his 3-year-old bow, Saturday’s Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby. Trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Mike Repole announced two weeks ago that they intended to use the Timely Writer as the first of two prep races that Uncle Mo will have prior to the Kentucky Derby on May 7, if the race filled.

MORE: Fields for Derby and Oaks future wagers | Free PPs

The Timely Writer drew a field of six 3-year-olds, including four supplemental nominees. Along with Uncle Mo, who will break from post 1, the lineup includes Gallant Dreams, Madman Diaries, Rocking Out, Schoolyard Cat, and Rattlesnake Bridge.

The Tampa Bay Derby also was also drawn Wednesday and, like the Timely Writer, features a key Kentucky Derby contender from Pletcher’s barn, the undefeated Brethren. A half-brother to 2010 Derby winner Super Saver, Brethren will return to Tampa off an easy and impressive victory last month in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis.

Pletcher also entered Uncle Mo in the Tampa Bay Derby as a contingency plan.

“I’m pleased that things worked out for both horses,” Pletcher said. “From Uncle Mo’s standpoint, I just felt a little more comfortable with him racing at Gulfstream, since he’s been training up at Palm Meadows, which has a similar surface. It’s also a shorter trip. I’ve always had great success at Tampa, but at the same time, he hasn’t run since November 6 and has had only six works, so I felt a mile at Gulfstream would be a little easier and doable than a mile and one sixteenth first time back. It was really splitting hairs, but this way is great because the two horses won’t have to go against each other.”

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

John Velazquez will keep his regular seat aboard Uncle Mo in the Timely Writer, while Ramon Dominguez again handles Brethren.

A field of 10 was entered for the 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby, including Uncle Mo. Brethren, as he did in the Sam Davis, will break from the extreme outside.

The complete Tampa Bay Derby lineup, from the rail out, consists of Striding Ahead, Economic Summit, Beamer, Uncle Mo, Too Experienced, Crimson Knight, Free Entry, Moonhanger, Watch Me Go, and Brethren.

“I’m glad we won’t be faced with making a decision that would ultimately have fallen on WinStar if both horses went to Tampa,” Pletcher said. “I needed to get Uncle Mo started this weekend for everything to fall in place. I have to do what’s best for both individual horses, and in this case everything has worked out best for both of them.”

Uncle Mo is not the only Breeders’ Cup winner entered at both tracks Saturday. Trainer Graham Motion also put Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Pluck in the Grade 3 Palm Beach at Gulfstream and in a one-mile allowance race on the Tampa Bay Derby undercard at Tampa.

Pluck won the Juvenile Turf for Pletcher but was transferred to Motion’s barn shortly thereafter.

Motion said Wednesday that he was leaning toward starting Pluck at Tampa at a mile, rather than opening his 3-year-old season at 1 1/8 miles against graded stakes company at Gulfstream Park.