04/06/2011 3:15PM

Wood Memorial: Uncle Mo draws post 5 in 10-horse field


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – The hard part may be over for Uncle Mo as far as Saturday’s $1 million Wood Memorial is concerned.

He got here.

After a one-day delay in his travel schedule, undefeated champion Uncle Mo arrived late Wednesday morning in New York, where on Saturday at Aqueduct he will face nine seemingly overmatched opponents in the Wood, this circuit’s major stepping-stone to the May 7 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Following a 2 1/2-hour plane ride from south Florida, Uncle Mo stepped off his van at 11:15 a.m. at Belmont and two hours later was assigned post 5 for the Wood, run at 1 1/8 miles over the Aqueduct’s main track.

Uncle Mo, the 1-5 morning-line favorite, has won three stakes – the Grade 1 Champagne, Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and the Timely Writer Stakes – which is one more than his nine Wood opponents combined. Toby’s Corner, who won the Whirlaway, and Preachintothedevil, who took the Champagneforashley Stakes for New York-breds, are the other stakes winners in the field.

Perhaps one of the reasons for there being nine horses entered against Uncle Mo is the fact that second-place is worth $200,000, and there is no clear-cut second choice.

“I don’t mind running second, but I want to the win the race,” said Gary Contessa, trainer of Preachintothedevil. “He’s by Pulpit out of a Grade 1 stakes winner, so it’s an important race for him. I’m not saying I’m going to beat Uncle Mo, but I’m going to the Wood trying to upset the Wood.”

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Contessa is putting blinkers on Preachintothedevil for the first time after noting that the horse did not seem focused when he finished sixth in the Grade 3 Spiral Stakes at Turfway. Preachintothedevil will break from post 6.

Graham Motion, trainer of probable second choice Toby’s Corner, said the logistics of shipping from the Fair Hill training center in Maryland to New York were easier than shipping to Hawthorne for the Illinois Derby, which has a purse $300,000.

“I was taught never to duck one horse,” said Motion, who also is adding blinkers to Toby’s Corner. “I do hate to run against that horse though. It seems logical for that kind of money to run in New York.”

Toby’s Corner will break from post 2 under Eddie Castro.

Darley Stable’s Arthur’s Tale was a late addition to the field after his connections said Sunday that they felt the race was too close back to the colt’s first-level allowance win on March 23. Jimmy Bell, president of Darley Stable USA, said his outfit wanted to enter and take a look at the field before committing to run.

Uncle Mo was scheduled to arrive Tuesday, but concerns over inclement weather delayed the trip to Wednesday. Pletcher was unconcerned about the one-day delay.

“I’d rather have a three-hour flight today where everything went perfectly than potential delays and a turbulent flight yesterday,” Pletcher said. “He wasn’t going to train the day he shipped, as it turned out that was Wednesday instead of Tuesday, not a big deal.”

Pletcher said even before posts were drawn that where Uncle Mo broke from was not going to be a big deal either. With Uncle Mo’s early speed, he figures to be near or on the lead, regardless of who else is in there.

“We’ll see how it shapes up and see the running styles of the other horses and come up with a strategy at that point,” Pletcher said.
Perhaps the horse in the race with the most early speed is Duca, who coincidentally was the horse that attempted to run with Uncle Mo in both colts’ debuts at Saratoga. Duca, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, will break from post 7 under Jon Court.

The field for the Wood, from the rail out, with riders, is: Starship Caesar (Cornelio Velasquez), Toby’s Corner (Eddie Castro), Full of Scoundrels (C.C. Lopez), Arthur’s Tale (Ramon Dominguez), Uncle Mo (John Velazquez), Preachintothedevil (Junior Alvarado), Duca (Jon Court), Norman Asbjornson (Julian Pimentel), Isn’t He Perfect (Channing Hill), and Son of Posse (Francisco Maysonett).

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