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Uncle Mo Back For More In Kelso Handicap
By New York Racing Association
ELMONT, N.Y. – In the 51 weeks since his victory in last year’s Grade 1 Champagne, Uncle Mo won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the Eclipse Award as the nation’s top 2-year-old male, established himself as the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby, suffered his first defeat when third in the Grade 1 Resorts World New York Casino Wood Memorial, was knocked out of the Triple Crown and sidelined for 4 ½ months with a liver disorder, and returned to run a rousing second in the Grade 1 Foxwoods King’s Bishop at Saratoga Race Course.
On “Super Saturday,” Uncle Mo returns to the scene of his first career stakes victory as he continues on the comeback trail in the Grade 2, $200,000 Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park. The one-mile Kelso, one of six graded stakes on the card, will be broadcast live on ESPN Classic and ESPN3.com from 4:30-6 p.m. EDT.
Although the Kelso is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, Uncle Mo’s connections are hopeful the 3-year-old Indian Charlie colt will wrap up 2011 in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. But first, he has to perform against a field of older horses that includes Grade 1 winners Jackson Bend and Jersey Town.
“He’s certainly training awfully well,” said Todd Pletcher, who trains Uncle Mo for Mike Repole. “I thought he trained really well before the King’s Bishop. I thought he ran a very good race off the bench and his three subsequent breezes since the King’s Bishop have been even more impressive than the ones leading into it, which were very good in their own right.
“We’re coming back to Belmont where he won the Champagne at a one-turn mile last year and he’s certainly training like a horse that’s getting ready to run his ‘A’ race,” added Pletcher. “We’re going up against older horses for the first time, but like always, I would expect him to go over there and run extremely well.”
With John Velazquez in the irons, Uncle Mo drew post position 3 and was listed at 4-5 on the morning line.
Drawing just inside Uncle Mo and listed as the 5-2 second choice on the morning line is Jackson Bend. After shortening up to seven furlongs and taking the James Marvin at opening day at Saratoga, Jackson Bend scored his first graded stakes win when he came from far back to win the Forego at the Spa on September 3.
The 4-year-old Hear No Evil colt will carry high weight of 121 pounds for the Kelso as he makes only his second start at Belmont, having finished sixth in the Star of Cozzene last October.
Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito will give a leg up to Corey Nakatani, who was aboard for the James Marvin and the Forego.
Jersey Town became a Grade 1 winner last November at Aqueduct Race Course when he came from just off the pace to take the Cigar Mile Handicap. Sidelined over the winter to remove chips from his ankles, the 5-year-old son of Speightstown finished second in his comeback race, the Teddy Drone at Monmouth Park on July 31, and was next runner-up to Jackson Bend in the Forego.
“He just keeps getting better and better,” said Barclay Tagg, who trains Jersey Town for Charles Fipke. “We freshened him up, he came back well and now he’s doing really, really well. Cornelio [Velasquez] knows him and will just let him run his race. I hope there’s enough speed to go after Uncle Mo so we don’t have to.”
Jersey Town, under 119 pounds, drew the rail at 9-2 on the morning line.
The Kelso also drew Godolphin Racing’s Sangaree, who returned to the United States this summer after a brief campaign in Dubai. The 6-year-old son of Awesome Again, who began his career in California, was sixth in the Rob N Gin overnight stakes on the turf at Belmont in July and most recently second to Rule in the Birdstone at Saratoga.
Rajiv Maragh rides Sangaree, 6-1 on the morning line, from post position 5.
Completing the field for the Kelso is Golddigger’s Boy, whose five-race winning streak in Pennsylvania was snapped when he finished fifth in the Forego.