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Champion Uncle Mo Set For Saturday Return
By Jack Will
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - The most highly-anticipated season debut of a 3-year-old in decades will come Saturday at Gulfstream Park when Repole Stable’s undefeated, 2-year-old Eclipse champion Uncle Mo sets off on the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Triple Crown trail in the $100,000 Timely Writer Stakes going one mile against five rivals his own age.
Regular jockey John R. Velazquez will be back aboard Uncle Mo for trainer Todd Pletcher in his first start since romping home a 4 ¼ lengths winner of the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6. The $220,000 Keeneland September purchase by Indian Charlie had won his debut at Saratoga by 14 ¼ lengths in late August and the Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park by 4 ¾ lengths in his first two starts.
The Timely Writer goes as the eighth race on the outstanding 11-race program to be followed later by renewals of the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) for older horses at one mile, featuring a rematch between Ol Memorial Stable’s Soaring Empire and Luis Olivares’ Tackleberry, and the $150,000 Palm Beach Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
Uncle Mo will likely go off at odds of 1-to-5 or even less again his apparently over-matched rivals with J.W. Singer LLC’s Rocking Out the most dangerous rival with jockey Julien Leparoux aboard for trainer Rick Dutrow. The son of Include won his debut by 4 ¼ lengths at Aqueduct going six furlongs on nov. 27 and ran well to finish third in a one-mile allowance here on Feb. 13 as the 11-to-10 favorite.
Completing the field for the Timely Writer are Live Oak Plantation’s Gallant Dreams, Javier Castellano; Mill House’s Rattlesnake Bridge, Jose Lezcano; Flying Zee Stable’s Schoolyard Cat, Ryan Curatolo; and Robert Teel and Wesley Ward’s Madman Diaries, Jeffrey Sanchez.
Deep Field Drawn for 67th Edition of Gulfstream Park Handicap
Soaring Empire and Tackleberry are 4-year-olds that have met twice in Graded stakes events earlier in the meet, the first round going to the former in the $100,000 Hal’s Hope Stakes (G3) over the track and one-mile distance on Jan. 8 with Tackleberry fourth after a poor start.
Tackleberry evened the score last out winning the $150,000 Gulfstream Sprint Championship (G2) at seven furlongs on Feb. 12 with Soaring Empire second after the son of Empire Maker had his own issues at the start breaking from post one. Jockey Jose Lezcano retains the mount on Soaring Empire for trainer Cam Gambolati while regular rider Javier Santiago will be aboard Tackleberry for owner-trainer Luis Olivares as they team up for a fourth start of the meet.
Between the Hal’s Hope and two-length victory in the Gulfstream Sprint Championship, Tackleberry went wire-to-wire for a 2 ¼ length victory in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Classic at 1 1/8 miles on Jan. 29. Olivares purchased the Montbrook gelding privately as a 2-year-old.
Also certain to attract strong support in the historic fixture will be WinStar Farm’s 4-year-old Kentucky homebred Rule with Javier Castellano aboard for trainer Todd Pletcher as the Kentucky homebred makes his third appearance of the meet.
A son of Roman Ruler, Rule was a game runner-up behind Soaring Empire in the Hal’s Hope in his first start since finishing third as the favorite in last year’s Florida Derby (G1) in March. He came back with a good third-place try last out in the Donn Handicap (G1) behind Giant Oak and Morning Line last out on Feb. 5.
The talented field also includes Joann and Alex Lieblong and partners’ 5-year-old Duke of Mischief with jockey Joe Bravo aboard in place of injured jockey Eibar Coa, hisd regular partner. The chestnut son of Graeme Hall finished second as the favorite last out behind Tackleberry in the Sunshine Millions Classic on Jan. 29.
Duke of Mischief emerged as a major player in the handicap division last year winning the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) in the spring and the Philip H. Iselin Handicap (G3) at Monmouth Park in August. The Sunshine Millions was his first out since finishing sixth in the Clark Handicap (G1) at Churchill downs in late November when he prompted the pace to the upper stretch.
An intriguing prospect in the field is Robert LaPenta and Jacks or Better Farm’s 4-year-old Jackson Bend with jockey Jeffrey Sanchez to ride. The son of Hear No Evil was a very good 2-year-old in 2009 winning the last five of six starts at Calder for breeder Jacks or Better and trainer Stanley Gold prior to selling a majority interesting the colt to LaPenta and placing him with Nick Zito.
Jackson Bend emerged as a major player on the Triple Crown trail, finishing second in the Holy Bull (G3) and Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) here, second to Eskendereya in the Wood Memorial (G1) at Aqueduct. After finishing 12th of 20 with trouble in the Kentucky Derby, he ran a very big race to finish third in the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico, beaten less than a length by Lookin at Lucky.
Jackson Bend disappointed in three more stakes starts later in the season, the last a fourth-place finish in the Ack Ack Handicap (G3) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5 behind Apart. He re-surfaced earlier this year back in training at Calder with Gold to get his 2011 season underway.
Completing the field of eight are William Clifton, Jr.’s Tizway, Rajiv Maragh; Robert LaPenta’s Our Dark Knight, Javier Castellano; and Flying Zee Stable and partners’ Pulsion, Ryan Curatolo.
Breeders’ Cup Winner Pluck Enters Palm Beach
While 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile hero Unclo Mo makes his 3-year-old debut in the Timely Writer Stakes in the eighth race, Team Valor’s Pluck, winner of the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G2), is entered to make his first start since Nov. 6 in the Palm Beach Stakes one race later in the ninth.
Jockey Rajiv Maragh is named to ride Pluck in his first start for trainer Graham Motion after Todd Pletcher guided him through his 2-year-old campaign, climaxed by his rally from 11th of 12 to a one-length victory over Soldat in the Breeders’ Cup after considerable trouble early in the one-mile test. The son of More Than Ready won the Summer Stakes (G3) at Woodbine in his previous start.
Get Away Farm Racing Stable’s Master Dunker will be a threat after two good races over the course at the meet for trainer David Fawkes, most recently finishing second in the Hallandale Beach Stakes on Feb. 6, but placed first following the disqualification of King Congie following a rough stretch run.
A roan/gray by Imperialism, Master Dunker had finished a close-up third in the Dania Beach Stakes in mid-January after a three-length allowance score in his turf debut. He broke his maiden by 8 ¼ lengths sprinting on the main track at Calder in August. Jockey Luis Saze has the mount.
Completing the field of 10 are Prantlack Farm and David Lester’s East of Danzig, Zayat Stable’s Ari C, Mill House’s Queen’splatekitten, Joseph Witek’s Joes Blazing Aaron, Preston Stable’s Artful Run, Joseph Karp’s Newsdad, Namcook Stables’ Liberty Cap, and World Throughbred Racing’s Rafe.