Friday, April 8, 2011

Wood Memorial Stakes Roundup

For many racing fans, Uncle Mo is the early Kentucky Derby favorite and when he enters the starting gate Saturday as the 1-5 morning line favorite in the $1 million Resorts World New York Casino Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) trainer Todd Pletcher will be looking for his second win in the coveted race.

Pletcher won the Wood last year with the highly-regarded Eskendereya but Uncle Mo, who is undefeated in four starts, is even more highly regarded and in some circles he has been compared to Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew who was undefeated in five starts before he won the Wood Memorial in 1977.

I like Uncle Mo and there is no doubt that he is talented. He showed brilliance as a 2-year-old when he won the one-mile Champagne Stakes (G1) last October but his 3-year-old debut in the Timely Writer Stakes was not that impressive. With the Wood as his last race before the Kentucky Derby, I’d like to see Uncle Mo run a strong race.

Seattle Slew won the Wood by 3¼- lengths in a time of 1:49.60. Bellamy Road ran the fastest time, setting a new stakes record of 1:47.16, and won by 17½ -lengths. So, a win in open-lengths by Uncle Mo in that time range would give me a lot more confidence about him going into the Derby.

I wrote about Uncle Mo in 2011 Kentucky Derby Outlook last December and I’ve been anxiously waiting to see him run at 9-furlongs.

Here’s what I wrote last December:

Uncle Mo, undefeated in three starts, most likely will top everyone’s top ten. He’s already proven to be exceptional with a combined 23¼ - length margin of victory in previous starts and two grade one wins in the Champagne Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He probably will be selected as the juvenile Eclipse winner and the early 2011 Derby favorite.

I have no doubt that Uncle Mo will probably be a fierce competitor up to 9-furlongs. However, it remains to be seen how competitive he will be racing beyond that distance.

Indian Charlie, Uncle Mo’s sire, was a fierce competitor and winner of the 1998 Santa Anita Derby but could only manage a third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Conveyance, a brilliant Indian Charlie colt on last year’s trail, was competitive up to 8½ to 9-furlongs.

To his advantage, Uncle Mo gets some stamina from In Excess, his grandsire, who was a good middle-distance runner that was able to stretch out and set a new track record in the 10-furlong Suburban Handicap. Arch, his damsire, won the 10-furlong Super Derby and sired Blame – recent winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic and leading candidate, along with Zenyatta, for Horse of The Year honors. (Coincidentally, Zenyatta’s damsire line is the same as Blame’s sire line.) Dixieland Band, the sire of Uncle Mo’s second dam Dixie Slippers, is the damsire of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense.

So, I will be watching, with great interest, to see how well Uncle Mo performs at 9-furlongs.

The Wood is Uncle Mo’s race to lose and that is not very likely. However, heavy favorites have been beaten when it appeared that they had a lock on a race.

I most likely will pass on wagering on the Wood but if I get to feeling lucky at the last moment and if they look good in the post parade, two long shots I like are Duca (20-1) and Norman Asbjornson (15-1).

Both showed promise in their last race but they, and the other horses entered in the Wood, are most likely running for second place honors.

1 comment:

  1. CC,

    As we discussed the FLA group is seriously weak.
    Need I say more. Pletcher took a very cautious schedule for his troop. The Derby is wide open and at a price.