Uncle Mo works 5 furlongs at Churchill

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Uncle Mo is ready for the Kentucky Derby.

And his owner is ready to bet on him. Big time.

The 3-year-old colt put together what trainer Todd Pletcher called a "textbook" workout Sunday morning at muddy Churchill Downs, clearing the way for the once prohibitive Derby favorite to head to the paddock for next Saturday's Run for the Roses.

It also clears the way for owner Mike Repole to make a hefty investment at the betting window on May 7. Uncle Mo has looked so good since a disappointing third-place finish in the Wood Memorial on April 9 Repole believes his budding star has regained the form he showed while easily winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile under the twin spires last November.

"If he doesn't go off the favorite, I'll make him the favorite," Repole said.

Uncle Mo certainly carried himself like one while working alongside stablemate and fellow Derby hopeful Stay Thirsty. Jockey John Velazquez and Uncle Mo covered five furlongs in 1:01.60 without breaking a real sweat.

It was all the validation Pletcher and Repole needed to enter Uncle Mo in the Derby. It's a prospect that seemed like a lock for months but was thrown into question when Uncle Mo tired in the Wood Memorial and suffered the first loss of his career.

A postrace examination revealed a gastrointestinal infection that left his Derby future in doubt. When Uncle Mo arrived at Churchill Downs nearly two weeks ago, Pletcher said his star need to have "19 good days" to run on the first Saturday in May.

With just six to go, Uncle Mo is 13 for 13. He aced a five-furlong workout last Tuesday and Pletcher believes Sunday's effort was even better.

"So far we've had a really good three weeks," Pletcher said. "We've gotten the two most important pieces of work in. Both of them went very well. I thought today's was even stronger than last week's."

So does Repole. Though a newcomer to the Derby, he's been around Uncle Mo enough to when he's in good shape and when he's struggling. Repole says the horse he saw handle the muck at Churchill Downs on a gloomy Sunday morning hardly looked like the horse that left New York two weeks ago beaten and ill.

"I can't speak for Todd, but the stage we're at right now from where we were two weeks ago, I couldn't be any happier," Repole said. "If I can tell you that his coat looks different, that's telling you something."

Repole was almost as pleased with Stay Thirsty's work. The Gotham Stakes winner is coming off a miserable seventh-place finish in the Florida Derby, but appears to have settled in nicely at Churchill Downs.

Repole joked "I've got my exacta now" after Stay Thirsty kept pace with Uncle Mo, working five furlongs in 1:01.80.

Still, he allows Stay Thirsty will likely be 20-1 at best when the gate opens next Saturday. He's expecting much shorter odds on Uncle Mo, though Repole allows Florida Derby winner Dialed In could be the top choice when the 20-horse field is set Wednesday.

Not that he agrees with it. He's certain Uncle Mo's issues in the Wood were an aberration.

"I think he's by far the best horse," Repole said. "If you're going to go by the Wood Memorial, I'm not afraid of any horse. ... If you want to make Dialed In the favorite, go ahead please, help me."