Is Uncle Mo Weak


Uncle Mo, Breeders' Cup Juvenile Winner and early favorite for the Kentucky Derby, will make his first start of the year next Saturday in the 1 Mile Timely Writer Stakes at Gulfstream Park, a race that looks like it was inserted in the schedule just to give Gulfstream a rival 3-year-old event to the emerging Tampa Bay Derby.

Todd Pletcher, trainer of last year's Derby winner, Super Saver, took the Tampa route to Churchill Downs in 2010. This year that was his original plan for Uncle Mo, but those plans changed with the availability of the Timely Writer as a prep.

What's wrong with this picture? Plenty! By cutting back in distance to a one-turn Mile, Pletcher is literally telegraphing that Uncle Mo is behind schedule. Derby contenders don't drop back in distance, they increase the distance to get fit for the 1¼ Mile of the Derby. And, Uncle Mo will have only one race at 1 1/8 Miles before going to Kentucky. That's the Wood Memorial in New York, which figures to be the weakest of the Big 5 final Derby Preps - Florida Derby, Wood, Arkansas Derby, Blue Grass and Santa Anita Derby. Again, the intelligent question is why? Why not stay in Florida.

Meanwhile, Derby contenders are sprouting all over the map. Soldat's victory in the Fountain of Youth was absolutely impressive. Yes, it's hard to win the Derby gate to wire and he's got plenty of early speed. But he's carried it 1-1/8 Miles impressively. To Honor And Serve, 3rd in the Fountain of Youth, was clearly not fully cranked for that race. Twice a winner at 1-1/8 Miles expect him to be on the muscle for the Florida Derby on April 3.

Mucho Macho Man was impressive in winning the Risen Star. But he was twice 2nd behind To Honor And Serve in New York stakes last fall. He goes next in the Louisiana Derby. Did he improve enough to overtake To Honor And Serve? Another colt that was only "half-ready" in his first start of the year was Rogue Romance, 3rd in the Risen Star. He'll give a better account of himself in the Louisiana Derby March 26.

In New York, Pletcher unveils his second string Derby contender, Stay Thirsty, Saturday in the Gotham. He may be rusty, having not run since the Breeders' Cup on November 6, but Pletcher sees fit to send him 1-1/16th miles around two turns to start the year. That indicates this one is farther along in his fitness level than Uncle Mo.

Santa Anita based runners are led by The Factor from Bob Baffert's barn. But this one looks like a sprinter. The question is could he even go 1¼ miles if they put him in a horse van?  This is a wide open year. Don't fall for the Uncle Mo hype. This is a contentious group and the Derby will be far more than just a one-colt coronation.


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