Uncle Mo just can't go, while Plum Pretty claims Oaks

Considered by many to be the strongest horse in the field, Uncle Mo has lost 70 pounds

May 06, 2011|By Kevin Van Valkenburg, The Baltimore Sun

LOUISVILLE, Ky.— Although it came as no real surprise when word leaked out Friday morning that Uncle Mo, the juvenile champion, would be scratched from the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby, it was yet another reminder of just how fragile thoroughbred horses truly are.

Rumors had been swirling around the track all week that trainer Todd Pletcher would never send him to the gate. Uncle Mo was undefeated as a 2-year-old, but a third place finish three weeks ago at the Wood Memorial sparked concerns that something wasn't right. Pletcher and owner Mike Repole tried to put a positive spin on things throughout the week, even pointing out that Uncle Mo "galloped like a monster" Friday morning, but ultimately the result was yet another somber press conference where both Pletcher and Repole expressed real concern about Uncle Mo's future.

Asked specifically if he thought Uncle Mo would ever run again, Pletcher didn't exactly offer a ringing endorsement.

"We'd like to think so," he said.

Although the diagnosis for the horse is still some kind of gastrointestinal infection, Pletcher and Repole admitted no one can say with any certainty what exactly is wrong with Uncle Mo, other than his appetite is lacking and his coat doesn't look right.

"We've got something going on inside that I don't know what it is," Pletcher said."The best vets in the world don't know what it is. When you don't know, that's when I get scared."

Pletcher said there are no plans to race Uncle Mo until doctors figure out what exactly is ailing him, which almost certainly rules out the Preakness Stakes.

"The next step is go get to the root of the issue," Pletcher said. "Right now, we have no race plans. Period."

Repole admitted he needed some time to let the news sink in when Pletcher told him on Thursday night. But by morning, after one final check up with his veterinarians, there was no way he was going to risk it.

"This horse has had every resource available trying to figure out what's wrong with him," Repole said. "And we still can't figure it out. It was an easy decision. I'm not worried about his racing career. Now we're really worried about the horse."

A pretty win

Plum Pretty won the 137th running of the Kentucky Oaks Friday, a race for the best 3-year-old fillies in the country. The Bob Baffert-trained horse took command in the middle of the far-left turn and held off a late charge from St. John's River to win by a neck.

"That was awesome," Baffert said. "This filly is really coming around. When she first came off the van [and I saw her the first time] I called her Plum Ugly. But she's really changed. She's beautiful."

Plum Pretty was coming of a 25-length victory in the Sunland Park Oaks, but she faced a much stiffer test this time out, laboring a bit at the end in front of a crowd of 110,122. But jockey Martin Garcia was able to coax just enough out of her to hold off Rosie Napravnik and St. John's River. The Pennsylvania-bred Pretty Plum won $570,000, and paid $14.60 to win. St. John's river paid $13.20 to place, and Zazu, who finished third, paid $4 to show.

Napravnik was seeking to become the first female jockey to win the Oaks, but she came up just short.

"It was such a disappointing loss, but you can't take anything away from [St John's River]," Napravnik said. "She ran so well."

kvanvalkenburg@baltsun.com

twitter.com/kvanvalkenburg

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