Derby Mo-Jo: The Final Chapter

(Part V and final entry of a blog authored by Mike Repole, owner of champion 2-year-old Uncle Mo)

I'd like to start out by thanking the racing fans and Uncle Mo fans, especially those that have reached out to me verbally, by email, through letters, and on Mo's Facebook page. Your support and concerns about his health mean more to me than you will ever know. I am very grateful to all of you.

Unfortunately, Mo did not make it to the Derby starting gate and that is disappointing. I said all along that he was 50-50 to make the race. He needed a great 19 days in order to do so, and his last two and half days were not great. After everything was taken into consideration, it was an easy decision to make. It was easy because it was the right thing to do for Mo. When healthy, I am confident he would have been the best horse in the race, but it was just not meant to be. I've said all along that I would never put my ego before any of my horses' health, whether it was Mo or a $5,000 claimer at Finger Lakes. I think I've proven to be a man of my word.

On Monday, Mo was transferred to WinStar Farm in Lexington. I've been in contact with Elliott Walden every day since then and he said that Mo is doing better. Though the vets are still not sure what is wrong with him internally, his appetite has improved and he has gained 15 pounds since his arrival. He is being turned out in a huge pen for four to five hours per day, eating grass, rolling around, and having fun. But we still have not gotten to the bottom of his health issues.

As his owner and a fan, it's scary because of the uncertainty of the situation. He has been examined by the best doctors available and will visit the best clinics in Kentucky. I told Todd that if my vet bills weren't super high this month I would complain. It is my responsibility not only to Mo but to the racing fans, to give him every single resource to bring him back to 100%. And I will do that.

At this point, I don't know if Mo will be back in training in two days, two weeks, two months, or two years. We just aren't sure about this condition or its seriousness. The toughest part is not knowing. There is nothing we can do for him except provide the best care, and hope and pray that the best vets can figure it out soon. My only concern right now is to get him healthy, but my long-term goal is to get him back to the Mo we all know and love, and winning races in Mo-like fashion.

If we accomplish the goal of getting him healthy and back to where he was, he will be back at the races this year and next.

Until now, I've avoided addressing one issue from last week. It involves comments made by Bob Baffert, who said the following in an article that appeared in the L. A. Times on May 5. Here are Baffert's comments, which he made at Churchill Downs:

"When I first came here, I felt like I had to talk to everybody and give them good stuff. But my wife taught me that when I talk too much, after 10 minutes, I start babbling, and that's when I get myself in trouble. Uncle Mo looks fantastic out there to me. He's the best horse in the race. I don't care what rumors you hear. You can't throw him out. He's looked great to me. Everyone is talking about him being 50/50. I think (Mike Repole) is just trying to build a price for himself because it sounds like he likes to gamble. He's going to be dangerous. I don't think it's some (gastrointestinal issue), I think he just got tired at the Wood (Memorial). From what I've seen visually, there is nothing there that tells me the horse isn't ready to run. I'm not buying that crap. He's just trying to steal this race."

I've been asked by 100 reporters what I thought about his comments, but I refused to answer that question last week. The Kentucky Derby was neither the time nor place and I was thinking that I didn't need to address such stupid, idiotic statements. I mean, even Baffert admits that if he talks more than 10 minutes he is likely to say something stupid. My suggestion is that next year he should change it to a 10-second rule, or simply adjust his sunglasses and not say anything at all.

Baffert doesn't know me at all, but he did get one thing right: I am a gambler. Any time you buy horses for a half million dollars and put as much money into this game as I have, you have to be a gambler. But his comments on Mo's health were totally out of line and I would expect more from a Hall of Fame trainer that I respect. I would never sacrifice a horse's health for my ego. The next time I see Baffert it will be at Saratoga. I will say hello to him from the winner's circle, as he picks up his horse and walks back to the barn.

I had a great time in Louisville. The most memorable part of the week was the Derby walk over to the paddock with Stay Thirsty and my family. My horse may not have won the race, but I was able to fulfill a lifelong dream that I will never forget. And even though I didn't win, at least I got to see Johnny Velazquez win his Super Bowl. Nobody is more deserving of being a Derby winner and I could not have been any happier for him.


Stay Thirsty in the paddock before the Kentucky Derby - Photo by Anne M. Eberhardt

As for me, there are no guarantees in life but hopefully I will make it back to the Derby again. Even if I don't, I'm still proud that I accomplished my dream. Thanks again for your support over these past few months and thanks to The Blood-Horse for giving me the opportunity to express my thoughts. I hope to see you at the racetrack.

All the best,

Mike

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