The Brock Talk

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Uncle Mo's 220 Yard Elephant

After Uncle Mo (photo) won the grade 1 Kelso Handicap during Belmont Park’s Super Saturday card Oct. 1, many assumed owner Mike Repole (photo below) would send the colt to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile for his next race instead of the 10 furlong Breeders’ Cup Classic.

After all, the Kelso was a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders' Cup Mile, meaning all entry fees for Uncle Mo would be forgone for the $1 million Mile on Breeders’ Cup Saturday. Secondly, the Kelso victory was over older horses, so Uncle Mo’s age as a 3-year-old should be no problem in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Although, Uncle Mo carried 117 pounds compared to runner-up Jackson Bend who toted 121 lbs, Uncle Mo was still a convincing winner. And finally, Repole already has Gotham, Jim Dandy and Travers Stakes winner Stay Thirsty headed to Classic. Why not try to win two Breeders’ Cup races that day.

As it stands right now however, Repole wants to have a double barrel shot at the $5 million Classic – Stay Thirsty making up one shot and Uncle Mo the other.

But there is a question regarding Uncle Mo and the classic 1-1/4 distance of the Classic, also run Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs. As a son of the successful stallion Indian Charlie, there is a question as to Uncle Mo running and winning over 1-1/4 miles against grade 1 international competition.

It is not so much Uncle Mo’s ability to run faster than his Breeders’ Up Classic rivals (his 1:33.82 time is among the fastest in the 30-year history of the Kelso and it was over a sloppy track), but can he run fast enough, far enough. The Classic is a full two furlongs (440 yards) further than the one mile Kelso.

Uncle Mo won the 1-1/16 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last year at Churchill Downs with ease – winning by four lengths. The only time Uncle Mo ran further, he was third, slightly more than a length behind Toby’s Corner in the World Resort Wood Memorial in April preparing for the Kentucky Derby. But that race must be thrown out, because a rare liver ailment discovered in Uncle Mo was just days after the Wood.

The doubt of whether Uncle Mo can win at 10 furlongs, comes most from the record of his sire Indian Charlie. Indian Charlie won the 9 furlong Santa Anita Derby in 1998 and was favored in the Kentucky Derby that year but finished third to stable mate Real Quiet.

Indian Charlie stood for $10,000 during his first year at stud, but now demands a fee of $70,000 for mare owners. And it is quite deserved based on his success as a stallion. A son of In Excess (IRE), Indian Charlie’s most successful offspring to date are Indian Blessing ($2,995,000), Fleet Indian ($1,704,513), Uncle Mo and Pampered Princess $786,125.

Indian Blessing was the 2007 Champion Juvenile Filly and a triple graded stakes winner at two, winning the seven furlong La Brea, the one mile Frizzette and the 1-1/16 mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and the Eclipse as Champion 2-Year-Old Filly. Fleet Indian won the Obeah Stakes and Beldame at 1-1/8 miles but also won the Personal Ensign and Delaware Handicap, both at 1-1/4 miles. Pampered Princess won the 1-1/8 Juddmonte Spinster at Keeneland and the ungraded Wayward Lass.

In 2010, Indian Charlie was represented on the Kentucky Derby trail by Conveyance, who looked impressive in winning the San Rafael at Santa Anita and the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn, but both were at one mile. In his last race before the Derby, he was upset by Endorsement in the 1-1/8 Sunland Derby. Conveyance eventually ran in the Kentucky Derby and lead for the first six furlongs, but faded badly and finished 15th to winner Super Saver.

So Indian Charlie has had a winner at the 10 furlong classic distance in Fleet Indian, and both races were against top grade competition. But Indian Charlie has had other offspring that were very impressive at 9 furlongs, but just couldn’t get that extra 220 yards to 1-1/4 miles.

Uncle Mo has followed that pattern of winning at 1-1/8 miles easily and has looked like he could have easily gone the extra furlong without threat. But that was almost a year ago against 2-year-olds in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. In the Kelso, Uncle Mo won so easily, he appeared as if he could have run to Katmando and back and brought Bob Sieger and his band with him.

This year there will be that extra distance, older competition and $3 million additional on the line in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Some say it’s just another furlong. But it’s also a giant eighth-of-a-mile elephant in the room that needs attention as well.

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