Derby Mo-Jo: And Down the Stretch We Come

(Part IIII of an ongoing blog authored by Mike Repole, owner of the previous Kentucky Derby favorite, Uncle Mo)

Wow, what a difference three weeks can make.

On April 3, I was sitting comfortable with two horses that were on almost everyone's top 5 Kentucky Derby lists, including Uncle Mo, who was undefeated and the horse to beat. After Stay Thirsty lost the Florida Derby you couldn't find him in anyone's top 10 and almost as soon as Uncle Mo was beaten in the Wood Memorial he was being called Uncle Slow and Aunt Mo. Talk about a rapid turn of events.

These past three weeks have helped reinforce a couple of things for me. First, horse racing is the world's best cure for overconfidence. It seems like I was given a double dose of that. Second, in this game you have to enjoy every win as much as you can because it can be fleeting. In some of my other business ventures like Vitamin Water and Pirate's Booty, I can set long term goals and track success. In horse racing, everything is one day at a time. What's even more frustrating is that I have a lot less control over the outcome. Racing success is 20% planned and 80% luck.

Stay Thirsty's Florida Derby is a toss out for us. It was 90 degrees that day and Thirsty looked like he had been dipped in a pool when he was standing in the paddock before the race. He obviously didn't like having blinkers on either. Since he has arrived at Churchill, Thirsty is doing great. He had a very encouraging work on April 17 when he breezed four furlongs in :48-flat in the mud and on April 24 stepped up and ran a bullet five furlongs in 1:00 in the slop. We are very pleased by the way he has trained. For the Derby, the blinkers will come off and Ramon Dominguez will stay on. His odds will probably about 25-1 or more, but I like Thirsty's chances as much as anyone else.

Stay Thirsty arriving at Churchill Downs.
(Photo: Reed Palmer/Churchill Downs)

Mo's Wood defeat was disappointing. There is no sugar coating it. Do I wish he would have won by eight lengths and been the favorite going into the Derby? Of course. Unfortunately, it didn't happen that way. You cant dwell on the past. You need to live in the present and focus on the future. A few days after the Wood, Mo was diagnosed with a gastrointestinal tract inflammation, which is not what you hope for in a $1 million, grade I race. Ultimately, we were a little relieved when we got the results because it helped explain his un-Mo-like effort. Had there been no reason, we would have been a lot more concerned.

That being said, having a GI infection 26 days before the Kentucky Derby is certainly not ideal. Bad timing? Absolutely. The end of the world? No way. Just look at how many horses have already been knocked off the Derby trail with injuries--Boys at Tosconova, Tapizar, Arthur's Tale, To Honor and Serve, Premier Pegasus, and The Factor to name a few. I feel terrible for those connections. This game is so tough and when you get that close to being one of 20 horses to run in the Kentucky Derby out of approximately 35,000 foals per year, it is very tough to accept.

Despite all the rumors, Mo is 100% physically sound. I addressed this in the NTRA teleconference on Tuesday and I cannot be any clearer about that. It is the owner, trainer, veterinarian's responsibily to ensure that every horse--whether it's a Kentucky Derby starter or a $5,000 claimer--is healthy when he gets to the starting gate. Mo has a great team of vets, both physical and internists, and like all of my horses is being treated with the best care. I sometimes joke with my family that I take care and worry more about my horses health, than my own. As bad as I want both Thirsty and Mo to run in the Derby, I would NEVER sacrifice their health for my own ego.

The good news is that Mo has responded very well to treatment, especially over the last four to five days. His appetite, attitude, and energy have gotten much better. On Tuesday morning, Mo had an excellent work at Churchill with Johnny V aboard. He worked alongside my graded stakes sprinter Calibrachoa, and seperated himself near the sixteenth-pole en route to a five-furlong work in 1:01.69 in the slop. Johnny and Todd were especially encouraged by how easily he did it and his strong gallop out. We couldn't have been any happier with the way he went. Two weeks after the diagnosis of the GI inflammation, we are extremely encouraged about how Mo has responded. When Mo first shipped to Churchill on April 18, Todd said that he would need to have 19 good days to make the Derby. So far, he has had eight. We need to hope he has 11 more. My confidence has never wavered in Mo. He is the best 3-year-old in the country. With any luck from the racing Gods, hopefully he will get to prove it on the First Saturday in May.

Uncle Mo arriving at Churchill Downs.
Photo: Reed Palmer/Churchill Downs

For those of you still in the corners of Thirsty and Mo, I thank you for your support. For those people who are rooting for a different horse, I wish you the best of luck. See you at Churchill.

All the best,


Uncle Mo at Belmont Park.
Photo: Rick Samuels

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