Beth Harris / AP Racing Writer, Published May 07 2011
Uncle Mo pulled from Kentucky Derby field due to health concernsLOUISVILLE, Ky. – The pockmarked road to the Kentucky Derby claimed another victim Friday when Uncle Mo was scratched due to a mysterious stomach ailment, further dimming a race already short on star power and speed.
Uncle Mo’s defection also threw the Derby wide open.
“You’re never safe until you put that saddle on because anything can happen,” Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said.
Owner Mike Repole announced the decision to scratch second favorite Uncle Mo about 40 minutes before wagering opened for the 137th Derby, set for 5:24 p.m. today. The colt has been bothered by a stomach problem, but vets couldn’t find a reason for his decreased appetite, energy and poor-looking coat.
“I’m actually relieved and now I’m really concerned and worried about Uncle Mo,” Repole said. “My hope is Uncle Mo gets healthy. He is a superstar.”
Uncle Mo’s absence reduced the already less-than-dazzling field to 19 horses, with Dialed In as the
4-1 favorite for two time-winning trainer Nick Zito.
Already lost in one of the flukiest Triple Crown seasons in memory were Premier Pegasus, The Factor, Jaycito, To Honor and Serve and Toby’s Corner, among others.
Today marks the 20th anniversary of Zito’s first Derby victory, when Strike the Gold came from off the pace in 1991.
Dialed In, who won his debut at Churchill Downs in November, shares a similar running style.
“He’s a closer and that’s the way he needs to run,” Zito said. “There are four or five horses that look good, but you have to beat all of them.”
Dialed In won the Florida Derby in a woefully slow time – and that was no exception. The speed figures used to rate a horse’s past performance indicate this year’s crop of Derby contenders is lacking in zip.
“Slow, fast or in-between, as long as he gets the distance what do we care?” Zito said. “If he does what we ask him to do, what’s the difference really?”
Arkansas Derby winner Archarcharch posted the highest speed figure in the major Derby preps, but will have a difficult time duplicating that coming out of the troublesome No. 1 post on the inside rail.
The uncertainty hovering over the race dovetails with a messy run-up that saw a slew of contenders sidelined by injuries and poor performances.
“There’s so much parity,” said Baffert, a three-time winner who will saddle Midnight Interlude, who will try to buck history to become the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win without having raced as 2-year-old.
“When you have a lot of equal horses and there’s no standout, everybody thinks, ‘Well, maybe it’s not that tough of a field,’ but I think it’s a tough field,” he said.