Friday, April 8, 2011

Can Uncle Mo Break The Jinx?

With less than a month until the Kentucky Derby, the prep races are in full swing across the nation. Florida and Louisiana have completed their series for three year olds, while Santa Anita and New York conclude their major preps this weekend. Even Illinois gets into the act with their Derby. Arkansas will have a full field in their Derby next weekend and Keeneland will conduct their premiere event, the Blue Grass Stakes (G-1). The last chance for Derby earnings will be the Lexington Stakes, scheduled for April 23, just two weeks before the big dance.

Uncle Mo 3 Photo Coglianese
Uncle Mo
   Returning to this weekends graded stakes, all eyes will be on UNCLE MO in the Wood Memorial. On paper, he appears to dominate a very weak field of allowance and listed stakes competitors. We’ve seen other contests where the overwhelming favorite wasn’t supposed to loose, and there is always the slim possibility of that here, otherwise, the NYRA would just hand Uncle Mo’s owner Mike Repole a check and the trophy while the horses sit in the barn. Uncle Mo will try to remove the Wood Memorial jinx. The last two winners were injured before running in the Kentucky Derby, and since 1977, only two horses have pulled off the Wood Memorial/Kentucky Derby double, Pleasant Colony and Fusaichi Pegasus.
So, barring an unfortunate incident to Uncle Mo in the Wood Memorial, who is the best of the rest?
Two horses, PREACHINTOTHEDEVIL and SON OF POSSE had their tails handed to them in the Vinery Spiral Stakes at Turfway. Preachintothedevil fits comfortably with state-breds, but he was beaten by Toby’s Corner in the Whirlaway. He could improve second off the layoff and before the Spiral, never finished out of the money.
Son Of Posse may find this distance a challenge. There’s stamina in his distaff line, but his forwardly placed running style guarantees he’ll have to run every step of the way. Pass.
NORMAN ASBJORNSONhas been double digit odds in his last three starts. He won twice and finished best of the rest in the Gotham against Stay Thirsty. His speed figures are improving and he has a chance to repeat here.

Whirlaway hero TOBY'S CORNERwas rank in the Gotham and regressed off of the triple digit speed figure he earned in the Whirlaway. Hopefully, he’ll be more settled this time around. He’s beaten almost half the field in previous races, and he’s working well.
STARSHIP CAESAR had no response in the Gotham after an inside trip. Breaking from the 1 post in the Wood, he’ll likely get the same trip. Pass.

Arthurs Tale Photo Jessica M
Arthur's Tale
 ISN’T HE PERFECT won for the first time in four starts this year against a soft allowance field, including Full Of Scoundrels after showing nothing in the Gotham. Pass. Ditto for FULL OF SCOUNDRELS. His speed figures improved in his first two races and if he were running against an allowance field going shorter, he might be worth a play.

So far, ARTHUR’S TALE has been a disappointment over the dirt. He was defeated by over 12 lengths the two times he took on listed stakes  winners, but found his comfort level last time out against optional claimers. He cost $750K at the Fasig Tipton Select Sale in 2009, and he’s well bred, by Bernardini out of a gorgeous Grade 2 turf router by Harlin. Skip the Wood, try him on turf.

 The requite last out maiden winner is DUCA. By Empire Maker out of Tempus Fugit (by Alphabet Soup) and with Quiet American as his second damsire, Duca is bred to run all day. His dam won her maiden in April of her three year old year, going 1 1/8 miles over the dirt. She went on to win three listed stakes and competed in several graded events without success. Duca has been on the Iron Maidens Kiddie List since he sold for $350K at the Fasig Tipton Select Sale in 2009. He could turn into a nice three year old later in the year, but he just won his maiden, is going against winners at a new track and distance. Lukas should point for the Belmont. Pass.

How the track is playing: Like practically every other major track in the nation, Aqueduct is speed favoring. Seven races have been held at 1 1/8 miles this meet and 100% of them have been won by horses on or near the lead. Yawn.

If things go as planned, UNCLE MO should comfortably win here and go into the Derby with little more than two paid work outs. The real race is for second and third. NORMAN ASBJORNSON and DUCA are confirmed front runners. If both of them can sit back and let UNCLE MO do his thing, they might be around at the end. Both have router pedigrees and the right running style to be effective. SON OF POSSE will probably be up near the lead along with PREACHINTOTHEDEVIL. The later has enough class to hang around for a piece of the pie. TOBY’S CORNER should come flying at the end, but his running style works against him. Here’s our superfecta pick.