Uncle Mo still pointed to Derby

A day after Uncle Mo finished third as the overwhelming favorite in the Resorts World New York Casino Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, trainer Todd Pletcher said the colt grabbed a quarter in the race, but that it was a minor issue and would not likely affect his Triple Crown plans.

"Uncle Mo is physically sound today," said Pletcher in a statement released April 10. "He walked the shedrow this morning. He did grab his quarter, about the size of a nickel, at the start of the race but it is very minor and insignificant. It will heal quickly and shouldn't be an issue."

"We plan on pulling blood work on Tuesday (April 12) after giving him a couple of days after the race, which is our standard when we have a horse that doesn't perform to our expectations," he added. "We are shipping Uncle Mo to Churchill Downs on April 18 to continue his preparations for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I).

"We'll see if we can get him prepared to step up," said the trainer, adding: "It was not a typical Uncle Mo performance, but I do not feel like the mile and an eighth was an issue."

Asked what he thought of this year's crop of 3-year-olds, Pletcher said, "I went into yesterday thinking Uncle Mo was a standout; today it is a very wide-open crop."

Mike Repole, owner of Uncle Mo added, "With 27 days to the Derby, I have total faith in Todd and total confidence in Uncle Mo. Although I would have loved to have won the Wood Memorial, the number one goal has always been May 7. If I ever have the favorite in the Wood Memorial again I will never watch 'Secretariat' the night before."

Pletcher said Repole took the colt's first loss in stride.

"I think he took it better than I did," said the trainer. "Anytime you run an undefeated champion (and he loses) your feelings are not going to change two minutes, two hours, or two days after the race."

Joining Uncle Mo on the trip to Kentucky will be Gulfstream Oaks (Grade 3) winner R Heat Lighting, who is being pointed to the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) May 6.

Pletcher said R Heat Lightning, like Uncle Mo, is scheduled to have two works over the track at Churchill Downs in advance of the race.

Headlining Pletcher's worktab at Belmont Park was multiple graded stakes winner Rule, who breezed four furlongs in 49.08 on the training track, the 22nd fastest of 61 workouts at the distance. The 4-year-old of son of Roman Ruler , who finished third in the 2010 Florida Derby (Grade 1), is expected to next run in the Charles Town Classic at Charles Town Races in West Virginia April 16.

"Rule breezed extremely well," Pletcher said. "He had success at Delta Downs as a 2-year-old which is encouraging in that he should like the tighter turns at Charles Town."

Pletcher added that the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park May 30 is definitely on Rule's radar.

Also working Sunday morning at Belmont for the five-time Eclipse winner trainer was Cal Nation, the promising 3-year-old Distorted Humor colt that broke his maiden by 7 3/4-lengths in his debut at Gulfstream Park in February and most recently ran second by a nose in an allowance at the same track.

"He worked very well this morning and seems to have shipped in [from Florida] very good order," said Pletcher of the colt who worked four furlongs in :48.63 on the training track, the 12th fastest of 61 workouts at the distance.

Cal Nation is pointing for the Grade 2 Jerome at Aqueduct on closing weekend, April 23 for 3-year-olds going a mile on the main track.