SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Now, things are starting to get serious with Uncle Mo.
Uncle Mo, last year's champion 2-year-old male, has made steady progress in recent weeks, since returning from an illness that knocked him out of the Kentucky Derby this spring. On Tuesday morning at Saratoga, he worked a fast five furlongs with his regular rider, John Velazquez.
Uncle Mo was given an official clocking of 1:00.22 over the Oklahoma training track, which was the quickest of nine works at that distance on that surface Tuesday; Daily Racing Form had him slightly slower, at 1:00.42, but still a bullet drill. Uncle Mo worked in company with the accomplished older stakes horse Caixa Eletronica, who broke off about three lengths in front of Uncle Mo and finished about a half-length back. He was given an official time of 1:00.93.
"He felt good. He felt very good," Velazquez said.
It was the first time Velazquez had been on Uncle Mo since just prior to the Kentucky Derby. Uncle Mo has not raced since suffering the first loss of his career in the Wood Memorial in April.
Todd Pletcher, Uncle Mo's trainer, called the work "exceptional."
"He worked with a seasoned horse who won the Westchester and was third in the Met Mile," Pletcher said. "To do that with his second five-eighths gives me a lot of confidence."
Uncle Mo worked five furlongs in 1:02.80 last Wednesday.
Pletcher said he now felt he was "ahead of schedule" in getting Uncle Mo ready for a planned start in the Grade 1 King's Bishop Stakes at seven furlongs on Aug. 27.
"Right now, we've got a little flexibility," said Pletcher, who said Uncle Mo likely would have another five-furlong on Monday. "There's no big crunch leading into it."
Pletcher decided to work Uncle Mo on the Oklahoma training track because he felt it was in better condition than the main track following recent wet weather; both surfaces were rated fast Tuesday morning. Pletcher scheduled the workout for 7:30 a.m., right after the renovation break, and as a result, a large crowd gathered near the clocker's stand to watch Uncle Mo, including owner Mike Repole and representatives from WinStar Farm, Three Chimneys Farm, and Darley USA, all potential suitors for his breeding rights.
Uncle Mo broke off about three lengths behind Caixa Eletronica, but was eager to get on with proceedings. Daily Racing Form had his opening furlong in 11.92 seconds and opening quarter-mile in 23.59 seconds.
"The last two works, there's been a change in his disposition," Pletcher said. "He's more aggressive going to the pole."
Uncle Mo was about a length behind Caixa Eletronica through the far turn and, with Velazquez asking him a bit with his hands near the wire, went past Caixa Eletronica, who was going easily with exercise rider Patti Krotenko.
Daily Racing Form had Uncle Mo going out six furlongs in 1:14.52.