by Jason Shandler for bloodhorse.com
Mike Repole, owner of probable 2-year-old champion and early Kentucky Derby (gr. I) favorite Uncle Mo, confirmed Jan. 13 that they are leaning toward the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) for his first start of the year.
Repole also said it is likely the 3-year-old son of Indian Charlie will have his first work of the year on the final weekend of January. He has been at Palm Meadows with trainer Todd Pletcher since Dec. 8.
Repole said the timing and distance of the Tampa Bay Derby fits Uncle Mo’s schedule the best at this point.
“Mo will tell us when he’s ready, but it looks like the Tampa Bay Derby right now,” said Repole, who is currently in South Florida and will be at the Eclipse Awards Jan. 17 in Miami when Uncle Mo will likely be named champion 2-year-old male. “The distance of a mile and sixteenth is ideal and the timing (March 12) makes it the most logical spot.
“There were three other options: The Hutcheson (gr. II, Feb 26 at Gulfstream), but Todd and I agreed we don’t want to move him back (in distance); the Fountain of Youth (gr. II, also Feb. 26 at Gulfstream) is at a mile and an eighth and no way, no how do we want to start him back going that long; and we even talked about the Gotham (gr. III, March 5 at Aqueduct), but flying him from Florida to New York, and then having to go back (to Palm Meadows) would be too crazy.”
Repole said Uncle Mo would likely have just two races before the Kentucky Derby, with the April 9 Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct as his final prep.
The bay colt has been galloping steadily at Palm Meadows in anticipation of his first work of the season, which will likely be on Jan. 29 or 30.
“He’s doing great; he looks really strong,” Repole said. “Todd is very happy with him.”
Uncle Mo, who is as low as 6-1 in some future books to win the 2011 Derby, was undefeated in three starts as a juvenile. He broke his maiden by 14 1/4 lengths last summer at Saratoga, romped in near-stakes record time in the Oct. 9 Champagne (gr. I) at Belmont, and crushed the field in the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.