By Dave Joseph
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Mo runs. Mo wins. Mo tweets.
That’s right, tweets. A potential super horse can do anything, so Mike Repole’s undefeated Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, Uncle Mo, has his own twitter account. And Mo’s growing legions of fans have even started a Facebook page. The mortal lock to be named 2010 2-year-old champion has more than 750 friends.
What’s next? DS games featuring Mo? Maybe the next package of Bella Sara playing cards your daughter opens will have an Uncle Mo card? Lego Mo? Wii Mo? Why not? Why should racing trail every other major sport in creative marketing and publicity?
For Repole, a successful businessman from Queens, N.Y., success on the track has led to creativity off the track. Not only is there a Mo Mania groundswell on the social media sites, but Repole recently donated $50,000 to thoroughbred retirement in the colt’s name.
“I can’t believe everything that’s happened in three, four months,” Repole said. “From Aug. 28, the date of Uncle Mo’s first race, to Nov. 6, the day he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, it’s all been beyond my wildest dream.”
And Uncle Mo, purchased for $220,000 and trained by Todd Pletcher, has been a dream since winning his debut at Saratoga by 14 ½ lengths. Ragozin Thoroughbred Data credited the colt with an incredible 2 ½ that day, among the fastest figures a 2-year-old has ever received on the “sheets.” The colt followed up that performance six weeks later with a victory in the Grade I Champagne, before running away from his competition in the Breeders’ Cup while running a 1 ½ on the “sheets.”
It’s no wonder Mo has the racing world buzzing…and Repole being inundated with requests for his time. “But it’s not about me,” Repole said. “It’s about the horse.”
Repole is used to being in the spotlight, but he wears it well since he comes from humble beginnings. He grew up in a small house with lots of family; his parents first generation Americans. His mother was a seamstress, his father a waiter. As a kid he’d occasionally cut class and, armed with Russ Harris’ New York Daily News selections, take the bus to Aqueduct with $20 to play the races. “My mother used to read the paper and wonder why the page was missing,” Repole recalled.
A graduate of St. John’s University, Repole was co-founder and the former president of Glaceau, the company that introduced Vitaminwater and was sold to Coca Cola for $4.1 billion. He is currently chairman of Pirate Brands, makers of Pirate Booty products. Under Repole’s direction, sales have gone up from $50 million to $100 million in less than two years.
Repole’s business philosophy carries over to his thoroughbred stable, which currently has approximately 85 horses, including Stay Thirsty, who finished fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. At Pirate Brands, Repole welcomes healthy debate, everyone being heard, and employees being looked upon as owners. It’s a successful business philosophy preached by respected organizational communicators John Kotter and Deborah Ancona. At the track, Repole and Pletcher exchange ideas.
“Todd and I have a great relationship; we bounce ideas off each other, take shots at each other” Repole said. “I give my opinion and Todd gives his opinion. But at the end of the day, I always tell Todd, “It’s more your horse than mine. Your vote counts as two and my vote as one.”
Then, tongue in cheek, Repole adds, “I also tell Todd if it works out, I’ll take credit. If it doesn’t work out, he screwed up.”
What Pletcher and Repole decided after the Breeders’ Cup was to give Uncle Mo a month off at Jimmy Crupi’s New Castle Farm in Ocala before shipping Dec. 8 to Gulfstream’s Palm Meadows training facility. They’ve also decided that Uncle Mo will have only two prep races this spring going into the Kentucky Derby.
“We both definitely agree on the two prep races,” Repole said. “(Uncle Mo) had two prep races before the Breeders’ Cup, so he’ll have two prep races before the Kentucky Derby. So his first race will likely be no earlier than Feb. 26th (the date of Gulfstream’s seven-furlong Hutcheson and 1-1/8-mile Fountain of Youth) and no later than March 12. We’re not sure whether it will be seven furlongs or a mile-and-an-eighth. It’s going to depend on what spot Todd wants, how Uncle Mo is training. There are a lot of (prep) races so you have a lot of opportunity. It’s something Todd and I will talk a lot about.”
For now, until Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty go back into training, Repole says he feels like a 5-year-old at Christmas. He talks about how much he enjoyed the Breeders’ Cup, spending three days with 50 family and friends ranging from a 5-year-old niece to his 85-year-old grandmother.
“It didn’t matter if he won or lost,” he said. “We were all together having a great time. It seemed like Thursday was Thanksgiving, Friday was Christmas Eve, and Saturday was the Breeders’ Cup. We were together; we laughed liked crazy; and, oh, by the way, we won the race.”
And there’s Mo to come.