Toby's Corner Back Home
Toby's Corner back home following Wood score
Wood Memorial S. (G1) winner TOBY'S CORNER (Bellamy Road) took the $600,000 first prize on Saturday at Aqueduct and shipped back to his home base at Fair Hill in Maryland the night of the race. With Spiral S. (G3) winner Animal Kingdom (Leroidesanimaux [Brz]), trainer Graham Motion now has two strong prospects for the May 7 Kentucky Derby (G1).
'I wasn't expecting (Toby's Corner) to beat Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie); the horse was so hyped up,' Motion admitted. 'He's a steady, improving horse who needed the distance, and the mile-and-an-eighth and the blinkers were a good combination for him.'
Toby's Corner overcame a demanding journey to win the Wood. The race chart footnotes describe him as 'buried behind and amongst rivals on the far turn...forced to pause once again as the field approached the quarter-pole...altered course outward just past the three-sixteenths pole.'
'He had a kind of a Derby-type experience yesterday,' Motion said of the race, which Toby's Corner won in a time of 1:49 4/5, beating Arthur's Tale (Bernardini) by a neck and Uncle Mo by a little more than a length.
Owner/breeder Dianne Cotter and Motion had never once spoken of the Kentucky Derby before the Wood, the trainer said, but on Saturday, after the victory over Uncle Mo, the subject finally came up.
'She just asked me if we were going, and I said we were,' Motion said. 'I just didn't want to do this for the sake of it. I wanted this horse to take me there.'
Motion said Toby's Corner will train up to the Kentucky Derby on the Tapeta surface at Fair Hill and ship in late to Churchill Downs.
Uncle Mo doing well following first loss
Trainer Todd Pletcher said Sunday morning that UNCLE MO (Indian Charlie), who suffered his first career defeat from five starts when finishing third in Aqueduct's Wood Memorial S. (G1) on Saturday, came out of the race in good order.
'Physically he seemed OK this morning,' Pletcher said of Mike Repole's juvenile champion, who was bright-eyed and happy to see visitors Sunday morning. 'He walked the shed row this morning.
'He grabbed a quarter, about the size of a nickel, but that will heal quickly and it shouldn't be an issue. We plan on pulling blood work on Tuesday after giving him a couple of days after the race, which is our standard when we have a horse that doesn't perform to our expectations.'
Pletcher said plans for Uncle Mo to ship to Churchill Downs on April 18 remain unchanged.
'We'll see if we can get him prepared to step up,' the trainer said before adding, 'It was not a typical Uncle Mo performance, but I do not feel like the mile and an eighth was an issue.'
Asked what he thought of this year's crop of three-year-olds, Pletcher replied, 'I went into (Saturday) thinking Uncle Mo was a standout; today it is a very wide-open crop.'
Pletcher said Repole took the colt's first loss in stride.
'I think he took it better than I did,' he admitted. 'Anytime you run an undefeated champion (and he loses) your feelings are not going to change two minutes, two hours, or two days after the race.'
'With 27 days to the Derby, I have total faith in Todd and total confidence in Uncle Mo,' Repole said. 'Although I would have loved to have won the Wood Memorial, the number one goal has always been May 7. If I ever have the favorite in the Wood Memorial again I will never watch 'Secretariat' the night before.'
Joining Uncle Mo on the trip to Kentucky will be Gulfstream Oaks (G2) and Davona Dale S. (G2) victress R HEAT LIGHTNING (Trippi), who is being pointed to the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on May 6.
'Her last two races were exceptional,' Pletcher said of the sophomore lass. 'She's a very hardy filly and she's held up well.'
Pletcher said R Heat Lightning, like Uncle Mo, is scheduled to have two works over the track at Churchill Downs in advance of the race.
Pletcher has a number of candidates for the Kentucky Derby. In addition to Uncle Mo and Gotham S. (G3) winner STAY THIRSTY (Bernardini), the trainer will send out BRETHREN (Distorted Humor), half-brother to last year's Derby winner Super Saver, in the April 16 Arkansas Derby (G1), and the trio of PRAETEREO (Giant's Causeway), QUEEN'SPLATEKITTEN (Kitten's Joy) and SENSATIONAL SLAM (Grand Slam) in the April 16 Blue Grass S. (G1) at Keeneland.
JOE VANN (Silver Deputy), who won Saturday's Illinois Derby (G3) at Hawthorne, is also trained by Pletcher but not nominated to the Triple Crown.