Looking Left

It’s impossible to ascertain the significance of the gr. 1 Travers Stakes on a national basis because here everything about it has been blown out of proportion.  The race is, after all, the showpiece of a meet that knows no comparison.

More women wore fancy hats to the track on Travers Day than on “Hat’s Off to Saratoga” Day.  Picnickers plunked down their folding chairs in spots that had not seen shade the entire summer.  Rod Sutton ordered that $10 spots be sold for $25 in his parking lots.

Now that it’s over, people will say that Stay Thirsty, by winning, ascended to the top of the three-year-old division.  That’s probable, but not certain if records mean anything. Ten different horses have won the ten different Grade 1 Stakes for three-year-old colts, he being the latest.  Regardless, the Bernardini colt’s most recent races – a nose loss in the 1-1/2 mile Belmont, a Jim Dandy Jim Dandy and the Midsummer Derby – are as fine a streak as any three-year-old horse has put together.

Three questions into the post-Travers press conference came the query on everyone’s mind – “How do you feel about Uncle Mo’s loss?”  Stay Thirsty’s owner Mike Repole doesn’t strike many people as a guy who does a lot of thinking before he answers.  Yet, if he’s serious about retiring his Travers star’s more celebrated  stablemate, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.  When horses don’t win as expected, their breeding value slips.

Caption: The irrepressible Mike Repole reacts to Uncle Mo's loss with early retirement talk at post-Travers press conference
Photo: Vic Zast

The even-money Uncle Mo lost the gr. 1 King’s Bishop Stakes by a nose to Caleb’s Posse.  The two-year-old champion appeared destined for the winner’s circle until Rajiv Maragh urged his mount one additional frantic stride to overtake him. The photo of Maragh looking left at Uncle Mo as he passed John Velazquez was priceless – priceless in at least the amount of money Repole saw slip away in stud fees.  

Jack Wolf and Don Luccarelli of Starlight Partners arrived early in network TV wardrobe.  They weren’t certain that Hilda’s Passion could withstand the pressure of Tar Heel Mom and the closing kick of Sassy Image in the gr. 1 Ballerina.  Neither option proved a worry.  Tar Heel Mom blew the break.  Sassy Image blew the turn.  Laurie Wolf, Jack’s wife, upstaged everyone in a tight-fitting orange sheer sheath and a glamorous statement hat.

Javier Castellano rode the winners of two of the three grade 1 stakes plus the fourth and sixth races. Todd Pletcher missed being the trainer of the trio by a nostril.  Repole had envisioned having his photo in the winner’s circle taken on four different occasions.  He faced the camera only once.

Attendance and handle were down, understandably.  New Yorkers and New Englanders stayed away because of Hurricane Irene.  The antics of a self-described “fun group” of young men and women from Saratoga Springs captivated the attention of fans in Section G.  Greg Montgomery, the artist of 28 Travers posters, was on hand with a pop-up shop, as he always is.

Caption: Greg Montgomery's Travers posters - longest continuing series of sporting art in the world - on sale at the racecourse.
Photo: Vic Zast

Vic Zast is the author of “The History and Art of 24 Travers.”  He’s attended the races in Saratoga for 48 straight summers.


Leave a Comment:

Stephi S.

Uncle Mo just came back off a four month layoff and ran a HUGE race!! Why would that diminish his stud value to anyone with eyes, or any knowledge of racing?? He finished second by a bare nose tip, against a good field of horses. Why and how does this diminish his value at stud?? Mike Repole has, I hope, more sense than you do, Vic, and will continue to run his horse, even if he risks losing again. For some people, it's about the sport and the racing, not the breeding shed. Uncle Mo is a good horse who has been handled very well. His comeback race is one that would have had any other horse being hailed as a wonder horse. So why diminish it by silly prognostications about its lowering his future stud fee??

28 Aug 2011 1:19 PM

Uncle Mo is a nice horse and had a nice way of moving, no doubt.

His connections would be wise to retire him, in my opinion.

He would be no match for a number of horses in the B.C. Sprint, particularly Big Drama

Second, Who needs to watch Todd Pletcher enter another miler in the B.C. Classic?

28 Aug 2011 2:24 PM

Mike Repole's cred shot down after that press conference. At this point, after both horses' two and three-year-old seasons, he doesn't deserve to own either. I have felt bad for Stay Thirsty, but now it's starting to spread over to Mo too. What's it going to take for these horses to be good enough to please him? Uncle Mo ran an incredible, honest, gut-wrenching second in a SPRINT, which he's not meant to do.

28 Aug 2011 7:04 PM
Admiral Harriman Nelson's lady

I am delighted with the performance of Stay Thirsty. I have always loved that horse--he was my Derby pick, and I stayed loyal through the Belmont, Jim Dandy, and Travers. He is such a beautifully bred horse, and it is so nice to see him finally get it all together. After living in the shadow of Uncle Mo for so long, Stay Thirsty deserves to be the top dog for a change. I can hardly wait to see him run as a four-year-old.

As for Uncle Mo, his people should be very proud. Here is a brilliant a horse as we have seen in many years, and he nearly died from a rare liver ailment. To not only have him pull through, but to get back to the races and at the top level, and then run such a bang-up race right out of the box, is incredible horsemanship. They have nothing to hang their heads about. The BC Classic might be a bit too ambitious at this point--I would opt for the dirt mile, as I think Mo is more a miler type. But definitely please do not retire him unless his health is in question. He lost nothing in defeat yesterday, but gained new admirers for his courage after what he went through just to survive.

28 Aug 2011 7:53 PM

Uncle Mo on his coming races is going to be extremely difficult to beat.Look at what a race he just did after almost 5 month without racing.He truly is a champion.

28 Aug 2011 9:00 PM

Loose by a nostril and retire na,i wanna see him get beat again,good thing the Factor did'nt show up the way he ran today.

28 Aug 2011 11:40 PM
Fuzzy Corgi

Mike Repole is seriously dropping in class with his recent comments about the Breeders' Cup and now threatening to retire Uncle Mo because he was a game nose back in his return race after being seriously ill only 4 months ago. C'mon Mike, pull up your big boy pants and either run the horses or get out of the game. You are doing the sport no favors.

29 Aug 2011 12:58 AM

How can you suggest that Repole is thinking about retiring Uncle Mo? This is irresponsible reporting. Did he say that in his post race news conference or to writers afterward? If so, where are the quotes?  Just becuase he lost doesn't mean his horse will retire. His stud value is not what it would have been anyway since he didn't win any of the classic races. He could win something next out and possibly win the Breeders Cup Classic.  

   This blog is a sham, it is high time someone edited this blog before it shows up. It is mostly a society page that the author thinks appeals to fans, it does not.

29 Aug 2011 1:36 AM

Vic, enjoy reading all your blogs. You should do the same for the Derby & Keeneland.Burch Riber says hello Stan & Pat are doing ok.Barry B

29 Aug 2011 5:18 PM

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