Pletcher And 'Mo' Ready To Go
By Ed Gray
BOYNTON BEACH, FL - Todd Pletcher understands that expectations for Uncle Mo far exceed an anticipated victory in Saturday’s $100,000 Timely Writer at Gulfstream Park. With 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta retired and confirmed in foal to Bernardini, his undefeated 3-year-old colt is widely viewed as thoroughbred racing’s Next Big Thing – a rare specimen with the talent and charisma to capture the imagination of the American public.
“It’s a position you want to be in – to have a horse of his caliber. Along with that, obviously, comes a lot of added exposure and excitement and pressure and everything else that goes with it,” Pletcher acknowledged. “Zenyatta’s shoes are big shoes to fill. He’s 3-for-3 so far. She’s was able to exceed that by a long ways. The races will only get tougher; the competition gets tougher; the field sizes get bigger; so we’re just looking at this as the first step and we’ll go from there.”
Uncle Mo has been rated as the 3-5 morning-line favorite in a field of six entered in the one-mile stakes written especially to attract the Eclipse Award-winning colt to Gulfstream Park for his 3-year-old debut.
“We’re happy the Timely Writer filled and we’re able to run Uncle Mo at Gulfstream,” said Pletcher, who trained Uncle Mo at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility. “Palm Meadows is a similar surface and we feel like it’s a good place to start a season. The horse has been training well. Everything’s gone according to plan. We’ve had cooperative weather. We’ve been able to breeze whenever we wanted to breeze, and he’s been training as well as he ever has.”
The son of Indian Charlie will likely be an even shorter price than his morning-line odds at post time due to his superior racing record, which includes a maiden victory at Saratoga by more than 14 lengths last August, a victory in the Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park in October and a stunningly dominant 4-1/4-length score in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs in November.
“I think the Breeders Cup Juvenile was his best race. It was his first race around two turns against the best horses in the world. I think it was important that it was Churchill Downs and he’s proven that he can handle the surface,” Pletcher said. “It was his most impressive performance, although all three were pretty impressive.”
Pletcher expects Uncle Mo to offer more of the same in the Timely Writer.
“I think he’s grown a touch, but he was a pretty big 2-year-old – and, obviously, a very talented.2-year-old. So we don’t feel like we need to improve a lot. It seems like he’s come along and done everything we’d expect him to do as a young 3-year-old,” he said. “Mentally, he’s always been a very, very easy horse to be around, so, so far, everything’s been great.”
Uncle Mo is the only Grade 1 stakes winner in the Timely Writer, which attracted a trio of lightly raced colts in Richard Dutrow-trained Rocking Out, a first-out winner who subsequently finished a troubled third in a Gulfstream allowance last month; Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Rattlesnake Bridge, who scored at first asking in his debut last month at Gulfstream Park; and Tom Albertrani-trained Gallant Dreams, a maiden winner in his second start at Belmont last fall who’ll be making his 2011 debut. Madman Diaries, who finished seventh in the Hutcheson (G2) at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 26 after winning the Sapling (G3) at Monmouth last year; and Schoolyard Cat, whose only victory in seven starts came in a $35,000 claiming race at Gulfstream three starts back, were also entered.
“I think you worry about everything. The main thing is we just want a good clean race and have a healthy start to the year for him,” Pletcher said. “We just hope he shows up and runs the way he’s capable of and everything will take care of itself.”
As Uncle Mo starts on the Road to the Kentucky Derby in the Timely Writer, his trainer is brimming with confidence in his colt’s foundation.
“I don’t we have to prove anything. We’ve checked off a lot of boxes in a short period of time; he’s handled the Grade 1 competition twice; he won the first time out, which makes you worry less about a layoff; he handled the surface at Churchill; so a lot of those things, he’s proven he can handle,” Pletcher said.
Pletcher knows how it feels to win the Kentucky Derby, having saddled Super Saver for a victory last year at Churchill Downs. Uncle Mo, though, has set the bar a little higher this year.
“Certainly, it takes a little heat off of it,” he said. “Anytime you have a horse like Uncle Mo, and if you get lucky enough to show up at Churchill Downs undefeated, then that’ll be plenty of excitement of its own.”