11/08/2010 3:42PM

Uncle Mo's owner wants to stay in New York groove

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Barbara D. Livingston
A jubilant Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher bask in Uncle Mo's victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

If it were up to owner Mike Repole, Uncle Mo’s road to the Kentucky Derby would run solely through New York.

“If I could I’d run him in the Count Fleet, Whirlaway, Gotham and Wood,” Repole, a native of Queens, N.Y., said Monday, referring to the four stakes Aqueduct hosts for 3-year-olds leading up the Derby. “And if they could move the Kentucky Derby to Aqueduct I would love that too.”

Considering the way Uncle Mo handled the Churchill Downs main track in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Repole should be thankful the Derby will remain at Churchill Downs and run next May 7.

Repole was still on cloud nine Monday, two days after Uncle Mo captured the $2 million Juvenile at Churchill Downs by 4 1/4 lengths to not only cement a 2-year-old championship but to stamp himself as the leading contender for next year’s Derby. Uncle Mo, a son of Indian Charlie, went 3 for 3 in 2010 with a 14 1/4-lenth maiden win followed by a 4 3/4-length victory in the Grade 1 Champagne before the Juvenile.

Repole knows that an Aqueduct-only road to the Derby is not going to happen, but he did emphasize Monday that he would like Uncle Mo’s final Derby prep to be in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. While the New York Racing Association has yet to announce a date for the Wood, it is traditionally held four weeks before the Kentucky Derby, which means it would be held April 9.

“The Wood would definitely by my number-one priority,” said Repole, though conceding that although “this horse might be owned by Mike Repole, Todd Pletcher is the best at what he does,” said Repole, referring to the trainer of Uncle Mo. “Todd will do what’s best for Uncle Mo. He knows clearly I’d love to win the Wood Memorial.”

On Sunday, Pletcher said his initial thinking is to give Uncle Mo just two preps before the Derby. He said he wouldn’t have an objection to running Uncle Mo around one turn in his first race as a 3-year-old which means races at Gulfstream Park such as the Holy Bull, a one-turn mile on Jan. 29, or the Hutcheson, a seven-furlong race on Feb. 26, could be possibilities.

The Hutcheson is run six weeks before the Wood, which is four weeks before the Kentucky Derby. Uncle Mo won the Juvenile four weeks after winning the Champagne, which came six weeks after he won his debut.

Though Pletcher has enjoyed tremendous success with 2-year-olds throughout his career, he said Uncle Mo is probably the best one he has had.

“I would say that his 2-year-old year was as good as any 2-year-old I have ever had,” Pletcher said. “I’m sure someone has started more times and won more races, but I couldn’t imagine a 2-year-old being any more impressive than he’s been in three starts.”

In the Juvenile, Uncle Mo stalked Riveting Reason for three-quarter-mile run in 1:11.92 before taking command turning for home and drawing off convincingly. He ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.60 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 108.

“That’s pretty impressive stuff for a young horse,” Pletcher said. “I was optimistic going in and after the race I thought that was a pretty special performance.”

Pletcher said that Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty, who finished fifth in the Juvenile, would ship to Florida later in the week.