LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Mike Repole is the kind of guy who doesn't mind a little attention from the media, but he admitted Thursday he'd definitely prefer to be answering questions this week about how good it feels to have the Kentucky Derby favorite as opposed to questions about whether or not, his horse, Uncle Mo, will even run.
Repole took questions from reporters for nearly 15 minutes outside trainer Todd Pletcher's barn Thursday morning, but we still don't know whether or not Uncle Mo will be in the starting gate come Saturday as he tries to recover from a gastrointestinal illness.
Repole did, however, vow that he and Pletcher and their team of veterinarians will make a decision by Friday morning about Uncle Mo's status, either ending or confirming a week of speculation that the horse will be scratched before the race. The horse, who was the juvenile champion last year, is having bloodwork done as well as several other tests. He looked good in his morning workout, but that doesn't indicate whether he'll be able to hold up for 1 1/4 miles.
"When it's an external problem, everyone knows what's going on," Repole said. "But when it's internal, you just don't know. I've asked him, but he doesn't talk. You have to go by his energy, his appetite and his attitude, and all of those are up. But how do you know if he's 80 percent, 90 percent or 100 percent? You don't really know."
Repole has vowed that if Uncle Mo isn't 100 percent, he'll have no problem scratching him and focusing on the Preakness Stakes. He even went so far as to say that if all three equine veterinarians say Uncle Mo is cleared to run, but Pletcher doesn't feel comfortable doing it, then Uncle Mo will be scratched.
"We'll know by [Friday]," Repole said. "We owe to him, we owe to the fans, we owe it to the media. If he's not 100 percent [Friday], he's not going to be 100 percent on Saturday."
The mayor of Louisville, Greg Fischer, stopped by Uncle Mo's barn on Thursday and Repole joked that he was going to try and convince Fischer to push the Derby back a week so that Uncle Mo could run. He's never wavered in his belief that Uncle Mo is by far the best horse in the field. He even went so far as to say this week that Uncle Mo could have won the Derby as a 2-year-old.
"I've dreamed about this for 30 years," Repole said. "We've got what we know is the best horse here this year, and probably the best horse of the last 20 years. I wanted to enjoy the moment, and to be honest with you, it's been tough. Racing needs superstars, and Uncle Mo, if he's 100 percent, could be that superstar."