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Mo less than avuncular with Champagne rivals
Repole Stable's UNCLE MO (Indian Charlie) lived up to the pre-race hype with an emphatic 4 3/4-length score in Saturday's $300,000 Champagne S. (G1) at Belmont Park. The 1-5 favorite off a dazzling 14 1/4-length debut win at Saratoga August 28, the Todd Pletcher trainee was tested early by 22-1 chance I'm Steppin' It Up (Congrats), who pressured the favorite through splits of :22 2/5 and :45 4/5. Uncle Mo opened up by a length on that rival after six panels in 1:10 2/5, then shifted into another gear in the stretch and drew off to win the one-mile, fast-track contest in 1:34 2/5.
Mountain Town (Cape Town), who was claimed for $75,000 out of his debut victory at Saratoga, took a brief run at Uncle Mo at the top of the stretch but was found wanting. However, the bay was an admirable second by a margin of 9 3/4 lengths for new owner Paul Pompa Jr. and trainer Rick Dutrow at odds of 9-1, with I'm Steppin' It Up completed the trifecta by a neck over Settle for Medal (Medallist). Meridian Magic (Mineshaft) was fifth and Brother in Arms (Yes It's True), the 6-1 second choice, trailed after tracking the early leaders. The winner's entrymate, Stay Thirsty (Bernardini), was scratched.
"Even though he went pretty fast he was doing it comfortably," jockey John Velazquez said of Uncle Mo. "Once we hit the three-eighths pole he kind of let go of the bit and relaxed. And then when I asked him at the quarter pole he was there. The instant I asked him he accelerated. He really did surprise me in how quickly he picked it up. He galloped out really well."
Uncle Mo returned $2.40, $2.10 and $2.10. Mountain Top paid $4.70 and $3.70, while I'm Steppin It Up gave back $5.20. The exacta paid $11.40 and the 1-5-4 trifecta was worth $67.
Uncle Mo will now head to Churchill Downs for the November 6 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), where the $216,000-earner might go favored.
"The sky's the limit," Pletcher said. "I don't see how a horse could start a career more impressively than he has. His maiden was as good as I've seen, and then to come back and run 1:34 2/5 in the Champagne is unbelievable. He'll ship to Churchill Downs on (October 26) and have one work over the track."
A $220,000 Keeneland September yearling, Uncle Mo was produced by the multiple stakes-placed Playa Maya (Arch). His female family has produced the likes of Argentinean Group 1 winner Eithan (Polish Numbers) and Grade 3 scorer Woods of Windsor (Woodman).