Uncle Mo a no show in Wood, runs 3rd in huge upset
The sight of Uncle Mo being passed by not one, but two horses in the stretch of the Wood Memorial silenced the hundreds of fans gathered at the rail at Aqueduct ready to cheer him on to another victory.
Uncle Mo inexplicably failed to produce his usual race-ending burst of speed, though, and finished third behind Toby's Corner and Arthur's Tale in one of the biggest upsets in the 87-year history of the Grade 1 Wood.
''I'm as depressed now as I am after (losing) a $25,000 claimer,'' Uncle Mo's owner Mike Repole said. ''That's why you have to run the races, whether you are 1-9 or 9-1, or whatever the winner was. ... The horse didn't fire today.''
Secretariat's loss to stablemate Angle Light in 1973 is considered the biggest upset in Wood history, but this one is pretty close after all the prerace buildup centering on Uncle Mo.
Repole said he watched the movie ''Secretariat'' on Friday night.
''It was probably a stupid idea,'' he said. ''Maybe he has an abscess on his tooth (like Secretariat). I'm going to check it later.''
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who won last year's Derby with Super Saver, said he was more disappointed then shocked.
''I was a little concerned turning for home at the 3-16th pole when he didn't really kick clear,'' Pletcher said. ''I thought then that we were going to be in for a fight. You could see the last 50-60 yards he was tired.''
Uncle Mo won his first four races by a combined 27 lengths, but now the Kentucky Derby in four weeks likely will have a new favorite, although it's tough to pick one at this point. In the past three days, two contenders were taken off the Derby trail with injuries (Premier Pegasus and To Honor and Serve) and Jaycito was scratched from Saturday's Santa Anita Derby.
With John Velazquez aboard, 1-10 favorite Uncle Mo controlled most of the 1 1-8-mile race against what was supposed to be a weak field. But when the 10 3-year-olds turned for home in the $1 million Wood, Uncle Mo on the inside was first passed by Arthur's Tale, and then Toby's Corner shot through between them and won by a neck. Uncle Mo was another length back in third.
''Oh, I'm surprised,'' winning trainer Graham Motion said, adding that owner Dianne Cotter hadn't even discussed going to the Derby.
He added: ''We're going, as long as he's doing fine. It's obviously a very wide open group and I kind of think he ranks right up there with the top ones.''
Not one of Uncle Mo's rivals was given much of a chance in the Wood, but Toby's Corner's bloodlines said he deserved a chance.
The chestnut colt is a son of Bellamy Road, who won the 2005 Wood by a record 17 lengths. Cotter bred both horses.
''Oh, I was very surprised, but there's always hope,'' Cotter said. ''His daddy won much more impressively. To think this could happen ... I can't stop laughing. It's just such a wonderful feeling. Graham did such a wonderful job, and Eddie (Castro) rode him just perfectly today. It's just been heaven.''
Toby's Corner was the 8-1 second choice, and was coming off a third-place finish in the Gotham Stakes last month at Aqueduct.
Uncle Mo will head to the Derby if he's healthy.
''It goes without saying that if he wins by 10 today he goes in there (the Derby) with quite a bit different morning line than he is now,'' Pletcher said. ''It doesn't mean we're not going to go, it doesn't mean we are going to go.
''We'll see how he comes out of it and make sure he's physically OK, that's a priority.''
Norman Asbjornson was fourth, followed by Isn't He Perfect, Starship Caesar, Son of Posse, Preachintothedevil and Duca.
Toby's Corner returned $19.40, $7 and $2.50. Arthur's Tale paid $11 and $3.30, and Uncle Mo returned $2.10 to show. The winning time was 1:49.93.
Toby's Corner earned $600,000 to boost his earnings to $722,240.
ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) - Midnight Interlude has won the Santa Anita Derby, giving Bob Baffert another Kentucky Derby contender after his other horse was scratched because of a foot injury.
Midnight Interlude rallied in the stretch under Victor Espinoza to beat Comma to the Top by a head in the $1 million race, the West's biggest prep for the May 7 Kentucky Derby. The colt ran 1 1-8 miles in 1:48.66.
Sent off at 13-1 odds, Midnight Interlude paid $29.80, $12 and $6. It was Baffert's record sixth win in the race.
Comma to the Top returned $9.20 and $5.80, while Mr. Commons was another 2 1/4 lengths back in third and paid $3.60 to show.
Baffert was forced to scratch Jaycito a day earlier.
CICERO, Ill. (AP) - Joe Vann won the $300,000 Illinois Derby by 4 1/4 lengths for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Ridden by Florent Geroux, Joe Vann ran 1 1-8 miles at Hawthorne in 1:51.91 and paid $12.60, $6.80 and $5.20 at 5-1 odds. Zoebear returned $8.80 and $6.20, while The Fed Eased was another half-length back in third and paid $6.20 to show. Sour was fourth.
Joe Vann He isn't nominated to the Triple Crown series, although Zoebear and The Fed Eased are.
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) - Win Willy rallied to win the $350,000 Grade II Oaklawn Stakes for 4-year-olds and older, beating Misremembered by a length.
Win Willy, ridden by Cliff Berry and trained by Mac Robertson, ran 1 1-8 miles in 1:48.820 and paid $12, $3.40 and $2.20. Misremembered returned $2.40 and $2.10, and Winslow Homer paid $3 to show.
Win Willy, a local favorite after winning the 2009 Rebel Stakes at 56-1 odds, has two victories, a second and a third in four stakes races this season at Oaklawn.