It's September so I guess we better start talking about juveniles.
On Saturday at Saratoga we may have seen the most dazzling maiden winner of the meet when Repole Stable's Uncle Mo devoured a field of 10 in a six-furlong contest. The son of Indian Charlie drew off to win by 14 1/2 lengths under John Velazquez, opening a lot of eyes along the way.
If you didn't see it, here it is.
Uncle Mo led every step of the way but it's not like he sprinted away from the field out of the gate. He rated well while on the lead and it wasn't until the top of the lane that he drew clear. It was a professional effort from a horse that was making his first start. He set a legitimate pace, going the opening quarter in :22.20 and a half in :45.67 before finishing up in 1:09.21. He earned a 102 Beyer, tied with Boys At Tosconova for the best figure of the year for a juvenile.
By comparison, four races later at Saratoga in the grade III Victory Ride for 3-year-old fillies, the winner (Rapport) ran a bit quicker on the front end (:22.05, :44.54), but finished up in 1:09.66. Also, three races prior for 2YO maiden fillies, the winner stopped the clock in 1:11.05. Any way you slice it, Uncle Mo turned in a huge effort in his debut.
What is next for the colt, who is out of the Arch mare Playa Maya and was bought for $220,000 as a yearling? Owner Mike Repole took a few minutes on Wednesday to tell us a little more.
For those that are not aware, 41-year-old Repole is the co-founder of Glaceau, the company that makes the popular drink Vitaminwater and was sold to Coca-Cola in 2007 for $4.1 billion. Repole, who sends the majority of his horses to Todd Pletcher, including Uncle Mo, was the leading NYRA owner a year ago and is running away with the owner's title at the current Saratoga meet. He is also a big time horse welfare advocate who donates a significant amount of money to several rescue organizations.
JS: Like everyone else, I guess you were pretty impressed about Uncle Mo's performance on Saturday?
MR: We had a pretty good idea he was going to do well. Another 2-year-old that Todd trains for us is Stay Thirsty, who will be running in the Hopeful (gr. I) on Monday. Todd told me two or three months ago that Stay Thirsty is his second best 2-year-old. Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty worked three times together. Each time, Uncle Mo was hand-ridden and Stay Thirsty was under a drive just to stay with him.
Anything can happen when they string that latch open, but I liked our chances. I wasn't shocked he won, but to see him win by almost 15 and earn a 102 Beyer was unexpected.
JS: He won on the lead but it's not like he did it in runaway fashion. That must make you even more excited that he can go longer.
MR: We're very excited. The way he rated on the lead was very professional. He only had about a three-length lead approaching the eighth-pole and by the time Tom Durkin got done calling the second, third, fourth, and fifth-place horses, he opened up another 10 lengths. It was like he said to Johnny (Velazquez), ‘You tell me when.' And he galloped out past the wire about 20 lengths ahead. Someone described it to me by saying the other horses looked like they were salmon swimming upstream trying to catch him.
That was the first time we really asked him to run. When he works in the morning you don't want him to beat the other by too much, so he would win by a neck or length and then gallop out way ahead. So this was fun to see.
JS: You bought him for $220,000 at Keeneland. How did you pick him out?
MR: It's a good story. I don't usually go to the sales. I have my team, Jimmy Cruppi and my racing manager Jim Martin there. They call me with the hip (numbers) and conformation and all that, and I usually decide what figure I want to pay.
I bought an Indian Charlie two years ago, Arrrr Pirates Booty. I paid $200,000 and it didn't turn out too well. So when they called me about this horse I wasn't too excited. I already had $200,000 tied up in an Indian Charlie and didn't want another one. I was talking to Jim (Martin) and told him I didn't want it. Jimmy (Cruppi) grabbed the phone and said, ‘Mike, you gotta have this horse.' I told him to put Jim back on the phone and I told him to go $200,000 but not a penny more.
So we're on him for $200,000 and thought we had him. Then at the last second someone went $210,000. I said 'no more,' but Jim said to me, ‘Hit it one more time!' And so we went $220,000 and got him. Trust me Jason, if someone would have went $221,000, I'm telling you, we would not have had him. I give those guys all the credit.
JS: Is Jimmy Crupe the one that broke him as a yearling at his farm in Florida?
MR: Yes, I send about 90% of my horses to him. He has a great eye.
JS: He's by Indian Charlie and out of an Arch mare. Do you think he can go longer?
MR: Yeah. Arch won the Super Derby and the mare broke her maiden at a mile first out. He is a big horse. Todd said the horse has no distance limitations.
He's still growing. We wanted to start him late because we knew he was going to be good and there was no rush. Todd said there we didn't need to win the Hopeful, so let's set him up for later in the year. We wanted to keep him and Stay Thirsty separated anyway.
JS: What will his next race be?
MR: The Champagne (Oct. 9 at Belmont) is the next stop as long as he is healthy and takes us there.
JS: Are you going to wait until after the Champagne to start thinking about the Breeders' Cup Juvenile?
MR: No, the Breeders' Cup is on the radar as long as he stays sound. He has to get through tomorrow and Thursday, and Friday, and every day after that. But if you want me to be candid, I'll tell you we're thinking about the Breeders' Cup. As long as he stays healthy, he will be a heavy favorite for the Champagne.
JS: When you play this game at the level that you do, it must be excited to have a couple talented 2-year-olds like this?
MR: It is. I'm a kid from Queens who has been a $2 bettor since I was 13. Our phone has rang off the hook since (the maiden win), but he's not for sale. Why would I sell him, just so I can buy 10 more yearlings that might not be as talented as he is? Mike Watchmaker has Uncle Mo as his No. 1 juvenile and I think he has Stay Thirsty ranked seventh. To have two of the top juveniles out of 15,000 is a dream.
JS: What is Uncle Mo named for?
MR: Uncle mo is a sports term for momentum. I've wanted to use the name for years by I didn't feel Repole Stable had enough momentum to use it. Now I thought was the right time to use the uncle mo name because the stable has momentum. You always want uncle mo on your side and I have him.