No more Mo.
Uncle Mo, last year's 2-year-old champion colt who finished 10th in Saturday's $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs, has been retired from racing, owner Mike Repole said Monday.
The decision to retire Uncle Mo was made Sunday after blood tests showed that one of his enzymes, gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT), was elevated. This is the same enzyme that was elevated in the spring -- knocking Uncle Mo out of the Triple Crown series -- and led to the diagnosis of the liver disease, cholangiohepatitis. Uncle Mo does not have a recurrence of that disease, but the GGT level was the highest it's been since the colt returned to trainer Todd Pletcher's care in July, Repole said. A normal GGT level is under 35, Uncle Mo's was "significantly higher" following the Classic, Repole said.
"We don't want to continue down this road where he's going to get ill again," Repole said Monday morning. "The vets did say that the stress and rigors of training could always bring about this elevated GGT."
Repole said that Dr. Doug Byars, one of the three veterinarians who diagnosed Uncle Mo earlier in the year, said that an elevated GGT enzyme is not hereditary.
"The liver regenerates, so there won't be any long-term damage to the liver, which is very, very important," Repole said. "But you can't keep stressing the horse's liver and then rest him, strain the liver and rest him. It's not right. I wouldn't do that to any of my horses.
"The encouraging thing I heard from Dr. Byars today was that this is a nonhereditary disorder," Repole added. "Now I only hope that Uncle Mo passes his speed, disposition, conformation, and brilliance on to his foals."
Pletcher felt that the elevated GGT level could have played a factor in Uncle Mo finishing 10th, 6 3/4 lengths behind Drosselmeyer, in Saturday night's Classic. Still, Pletcher also believes that Uncle Mo didn't handle the Churchill main track well.
Uncle Mo was scheduled to ship by van Monday afternoon from Churchill Downs to Ashford Stud, the North American division of Coolmore, which purchased a majority interest in Uncle Mo from Repole in August. Repole, who purchased Uncle Mo for $220,000 as a yearling, will retain an interest in the colt as a stallion.
"I'm so fortunate, so blessed, and so lucky to own a horse like Uncle Mo," Repole said. "No regrets. He's probably given me more thrills visiting him on a Sunday morning than he has when he raced. Uncle Mo will always be part of my life."
Uncle Mo won five of eight career starts and $1,606,000 in earnings.
He debuted at Saratoga on Aug. 28, 2010 -- Travers Day -- at Saratoga and won his debut by 14 1/4 lengths while running six furlongs in 1:09.21 Five weeks later, he won the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont, where his final time of 1:34.51 equaled Seattle Slew's -- at least when translated to fifths, 1:34 2/5 -- for the second fastest of 61 Champagnes run at one mile.
Uncle Mo then capped his brilliant 2-year-old campaign with a dominant 4 1/4-length victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs.
"I think his 2-year-old season will go down as good or better than any 2-year-old season we've ever seen," Pletcher said. "To do what he did in a short window of time, to run as fast as he did, and do it as impressively as he did was special. We've been blessed to have had a lot of good 2-year-olds, none of them accomplished what he did."
At 3, Uncle Mo won the Timely Writer Stakes at Gulfstream in March, but his battle with an elevated GGT enzyme began to cause him problems in the spring. After finishing third in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, Uncle Mo originally was diagnosed with a gastrointestinal infection for which he was being treated in the weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby. When he was taken off the medication, he started to have a depressed appetite and subsequently was scratched from the Kentucky Derby the morning before the race.
It was about a month after that he was diagnosed with cholangiohepatitis, an inflammation of the liver and bile passages.
While never deemed life-threatening, the illness was expected to cut short his career in part because veterinarians didn't think he could return to the elite level at which he had performed.
But Uncle Mo did make it back to that level. He returned off a 140-day layoff to run second to Caleb's Posse in the Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga. He was beaten by a nose, despite losing a shoe in the race. Five weeks later, he romped to a three-length win over Jackson Bend in the Grade 1 Kelso, running a mile in 1:33.82 over a sealed, muddy Belmont Park track and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 118.
In the Classic, Uncle Mo stalked the pace of Game On Dude and was in contention until the quarter pole before giving way.
"It's frustrating," Pletcher said. "Had he not come down with this strange liver disease, he would have gone on to do greater things than he was able to do at 3. It pretty much compromised his 3-year-old season. He was still able to run some very good races, but it never allowed him to fulfill what he could have been."