Uncle Mo has been the de facto Kentucky Derby favorite ever since his victory in the 2010 Breeder’s Cup Juvenile. Since the first of the year he’s been the top pick in Kentucky Derby betting by the horse racing betting public and the members of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA). Uncle Mo entered last weekend as the futures betting favorite at Nevada and offshore sportsbooks as well as the official Churchill Downs based Kentucky Derby Futures betting pool. He started Saturday’s Wood Memorial at Aqueduct as a prohibitive 1-9 post time favorite. All of this served to make Toby’s Corner’s victory in the Wood one of the biggest upsets of the past decade.
There’s no shortage of speculation about where Toby’s Corner’s Wood Memorial victory ranks among the most shocking upsets in horse racing history but it’s certainly the biggest upset in this race since Secretariat lost the Wood in 1973. This fact could make Uncle Mo’s connections feel better about his future prospects—Secretariat went on to dominate the Triple Crown and make a strong claim to being the greatest thoroughbred race horse in history. For now, however, Uncle Mo’s third place finish is a shocking disappointment. Toby’s Corner wasn’t a huge longshot at 8-1, but the victory has left the pecking order for the Kentucky Derby early next month at Churchill Downs in Kentucky in a state of chaos.
Uncle Mo recovered quickly after a minor stumble at the start and set the pace for much of the way, but simply couldn’t close in the final eighth of a mile. He gave up the lead to Arthur’s Tale who was then caught by Toby’s Corner just before the wire. Arthur’s Tale would hold on to finish second with Uncle Mo settling for third. Toby’s Corner paid horse racing betting enthusiasts $19.40 to win, $7.00 to place and $2.50 to show. Arthur’s Tale returned $11.00 and $3.30 with Uncle Mo paying $2.10 to place.
Not surprisingly, Uncle Mo’s connections were in a state of shock including trainer Todd Pletcher:
“I can’t say I’m shocked, but I’m disappointed. I wouldn’t use that (Mo’s stumble at the start) as an excuse, but after that he was kind of hounded early on. But I thought the fractions were reasonable. It was his first time a mile and an eighth, first time over the Aqueduct surface. Maybe he got a little tired the last part.”
Owner Mike Repole suggested that disappointments of this type are just part of horse racing:
“It’s horse racing, I’m as depressed now as I am [when I lose] a $25,000 claimer.”
Adding to the drama was a minor foot injury early suffered by Uncle Mo at the start of the race when he essentially tore off a piece of his hoof. By horse racing standards it wasn’t particularly significant—trainer Pletcher described it as being ‘the size of a quarter’ –but definitely looked painful. In addition—and unrelated to the hoof injury—Mo will undergo blood work this week to see if there are any other issues at play. Pletcher said it’s standard operating procedure after a horse doesn’t perform up to expectations:
“We plan on pulling blood work on Tuesday after giving him a couple of days after the race, which is our standard when we have a horse that doesn’t perform to our expectations. We are shipping Uncle Mo to Churchill Downs on April 18 to continue his preparations for the Kentucky Derby.”
For now, the plan is still for Uncle Mo to race in the Kentucky Derby barring any negative report from his blood tests. The dynamic of the race has changed greatly, however, and it’ll now be a wide open competition heading in rather than a race with an overwhelming favorite in Uncle Mo and a group of longshots looking to spoil his coronation.