Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

Turning a Corner in the Wood Memorial

Posted by Brian Appleton on April 11, 2011

One of the biggest upsets in the history of the Wood Memorial (gr.1) took place on Saturday at Aqueduct racetrack when Uncle Mo posted the first loss of his brilliant career, finishing third in front of more than 12,000 stunned fans.

In my first visit to Aqueduct I was prepared to witness history in the making, prepared to watch Uncle Mo romp home in the Resorts World New York Casino Wood Memorial (gr.1) amidst a flurry of joyful celebration. I had played out a thousand different scenarios in my mind of what would happen when Uncle Mo turned in another spectacular victory on his way to the Kentucky Derby as one of the shortest priced favorites in recent history.

For a short while my Uncle Mo daydreams were alive and well. As I leaned over the rail, eyes glued to the champion approaching me on his way to the paddock, the crowd noticeably began to buzz, shouts of “Go Mo” began to fill the air. I snapped at least eight different shots as Uncle Mo passed by my location, shouting encouragement here and there between shots. Sadly the exhilaration did not last long.

As the gates burst open Uncle Mo shot forward and grabbed a quarter but didn’t miss a beat getting to the front of the pack. As the field thundered into the first turn Uncle Mo held a short lead over Duca with Starship Caesar close behind. Toby’s Corner ran in sixth as Uncle Mo posted the opening quarter mile in :23.49. Traveling down the backstretch the champion held sway, getting the half mile in a comfortable :47.98 as the field bunched up close behind. Uncle Mo still led as they entered the far turn and held a narrow advantage as they straightened into the stretch. With the wire now in sight John Velasquez set Uncle Mo down for the task at hand and Uncle Mo responded, opening up by one length. The crowd went wild as it appeared for an instant that he would pull away to post his fifth lifetime win and remain undefeated, but from well back longshot Arthur’s Tale made a bold run on the far outside to quickly seize the lead. Toby’s Corner meanwhile had shot up from mid-pack and drove between Uncle Mo and Arthur’s Tale to get up for the win by a neck.

Shocked doesn’t come close to expressing how surprising Uncle Mo’s huge upset was. He was supposed to be the next “great one” and in less than 2 minutes the picture perfect hero had collapsed like a house of cards hit by a summer breeze.

How does this now affect the Kentucky Derby picture? If The Factor wins the Arkansas Derby he will most likely become the Derby favorite but for now it’s Dialed In who most likely takes over the role as favorite. I have decided not to lose faith in Uncle Mo after just one loss. After only two 4 furlong works to prepare for a 9 furlong race Uncle Mo finished just 1 ¼ lengths behind Toby’s Corner, who has to now be considered a serious Derby contender. He obviously was short and needed more conditioning to run his best race, plus I’m sure the quarter grabbing didn’t help. He will need some sharp works before the Derby to run his best race at 10 furlongs. Hopefully Pletcher will have his star ready to run the race of his life on the first Saturday in May and give him some serious workouts in the mornings. No more of this 4 furlong nonsense if Uncle Mo is to stand any chance of running a competitive race in the Derby.

Below are some of the pictures I was able to take at Aqueduct on Saturday. Unfortunately I put it on the wrong setting for some of the pictures so some turned out slightly blurry and bright but I’ll post them anyway.

 

Glickman wins Race #2

Kensei - 4th place finisher in The Carter

Yawanna Twist - 3rd Place finisher in The Carter

Aproirity - 2nd place finisher in The Carter

Morning Line - Winner of The Carter

Morning Line

Toby's Corner

The Champ Himself

Uncle Mo

In the gate for the Wood

And They're Off!

Uncle Mo

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12 Responses to “Turning a Corner in the Wood Memorial”

  1. mary petrecz said

    Great, as usual Brian! I’m not throwing him out of the Derby either. Now I think, his posse will step up the training and not rely on his talent to carry him with all the challenges ahead. He seemed to have gate problems, I guess they were trying to train him to break sharply out of the gate and being a young colt, lost his feet and clipped himself. I think they were worried about him breaking and needed to think more about, as you said, working more than 4 furlongs. His talent has carried him pretty far, but now he needs conditioning…..

    • Thanks Mary! I’m glad to see you’re sticking with Mo as well.
      Yes, he did have some issues at the gate. From where I was standing it looked like he was getting a little fractious as they tried to load him the first time which surprised me because he’s always been perfect to load. Who knows? He may have just had an off day and wasn’t feeling his best, I’m sure it happens and all things considered he really didn’t run that bad. It’s just that the expectations were set so incredibly high it was truly stunning for him to lose after so much hype.
      If they work him for a 1 1/4 mile race he’ll be fine in the Derby, but if they continue to train him for sprint distance he’s going to be in trouble.

  2. Sounds like you saw history in the making. You did a great job with the pictures, by the way. The grainy nature of them is probably due to an ISO set too high, but the composition of each image is perfect.

  3. Sabrina said

    Thanks for posting a picture of our sign. It will resurface at future Mo races!

  4. LDP said

    I completely agree. Two half mile works one a slow 49.5 is not how you get a horse ready for 9 furlongs. He should’ve worked at least three times with his final work being 5f in 59 or so. He needs to get conditioned now, which I think He will. Another thing, I’m not sure he handled the track. Normally he will drop his shoulder at the turn and lengthen and quicken. The change is so apparent you can normally see it from a head on view, like you get in the BCJ replay. Here, in the Wood, I saw no change, he just ran evenly. There was no burst at all, no extending or quickening, nothing. That could be because he had to switch leads to his left, the foot he grabbed, but could it also be because he didn’t take to a track that was tiring and against speed that day?

    I say he gained a great deal of conditioning and with a couple of sharp, long works and a return to his biggest victory, he will dominate once again.

    • Unfortunately Todd Pletcher came out saying he doesn’t believe Uncle Mo was short for the Wood Memorial and will not crank up his training regimen for the Derby. I hope he changes his mind.

  5. Andrew said

    Looks like it was a great day, nice pictures! I’m thinking there is something to be said for racing fitness and I don’t know if anything Mo does from here to the Derby will be enough to get him ready for that grind. He is pretty special though so maybe he can overcome it.

    The pictures of Morning Line are really good he looks like a champ.

    Nice run by Joyful Victory on Sunday, those Ontario bred fillies keep making an impact on the novel nine eh?

    • Thanks Andrew, it was a great day! I’m not sure Uncle Mo will be ready for the Derby either, Pletcher stated that he isn’t going to work him harder before the Derby. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that he can pull it off.

      Morning looked really great in person, it was easy to see he looked the best out of all the horses in the Carter post parade.

  6. westward way said

    great writting brian, nice to meet you at the rail on saturday. the pictures are great too! see you at the rail.
    Westward way

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