Uncle Mo wins Breeders' Cup Juvenile
It took trainer Todd Pletcher a decade and 24 not-so-close losses in the Kentucky Derby before he broke through this spring with Super Saver.
He might not have to wait nearly as long to win his second. Not if budding superstar Uncle Mo has anything to say about it.
The 2-year-old colt dominated the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Saturday at Churchill Downs, stamping himself as the early favorite for the next Run for the Roses with an effortless 4 1/4-length win over Boys At Tosconova.
The normally stoic Pletcher had goosebumps watching Uncle Mo surge to the wire.
"That was a pretty special performance," Pletcher said. "I was literally shaking a little bit after the race."
So was owner Mike Repole, who grew up going to tracks around New York City and has been dreaming of owning a horse good enough to run under the twin spires on the first Saturday in May for 30 years.
"It's basically just gone from surreal to real," he said.
Repole built his fortune as the co-founder of beverage company Glaceau, which he sold to Coca-Cola for $4.1 billion in 2007.
Repole clutched a bottle of Vitamin Water in the winner's circle, but had a decidedly more adult drink choice in mind after seeing Uncle Mo leave the rest of the 10-horse field far behind.
"I'm just going to get so drunk tonight," he said with a laugh.
Uncle Mo covered the 1 1/16th-mile in 1:42.60 and paid $4.20 after going off as the heavy 7-5 favorite. He's unbeaten and unchallenged in three starts, winning by a combined 23 1/4 lengths.
"You know, to have a horse with this much natural ability and then have a brain and a mind to go with it, it's a complete package," Pletcher said. "It's one of those that's just so rare to come up with."
Winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile has been more of a curse than a blessing when it comes to the Derby. No Juvenile winner in the first 22 years of the event made it to the Winner's Circle under the Twin Spires until Street Sense did it four years ago. He romped in the 2006 Juvenile then came back six months later to beat Hard Spun in the Derby.
While Repole is already working on his Derby Day outfit, Pletcher is more cautious. He knows Uncle Mo has the talent. It takes more than that, however, to win the first jewel of the Triple Crown.
"He's already running races fast enough to beat what normally wins 3-year-old races," he said. "You know, the challenge always in this game is keeping them healthy."
Like Uncle Mo, Boys At Tosconova built his resume with a pair of emphatic wins in New York over the summer. Trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. — who won the Derby in 2008 with Big Brown — figured the Juvenile would turn into a two-horse race.
It didn't. Uncle Mo was in a class all his own.
"It looked like he was the only one that had a shot at beating us," Dutrow said. "I was hoping he wouldn't, but he did. We just have to hope that our horse stays good and keeps developing the right way."
Rogue Romance was third, a good 14 lengths behind Uncle Mo.
The victory was Pletcher's third of the weekend, matching his career Breeders' Cup victory total coming in. He got chills watching jockey John Velazquez urge Uncle Mo by front-runner Riveting Reason at the top of the stretch, before zooming away.
"The thing that's so impressive, he's just cruising along, cruising along, you turn for home, and you can just see him lower and accelerate," Pletcher said. "You know, the ability to cruise along ... and then find another gear, it's pretty special to watch."