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.