Repole Stable’s Uncle Mo, the strong favorite for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) prior to his surprising loss in the $1 million Wood Memorial (GI), and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Dream Team Racing Stable’s Mucho Macho Man, winner of the Risen Star (GII) at Fair Grounds, are settling in at Churchill Downs following separate arrivals on the grounds of the historic track on Monday morning.
The Todd Pletcher-trained Uncle Mo was led off a van by assistant trainer Michael McCarthy shortly before noon as the son of Indian Charlie returned to the scene of his victory in the $2 million Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile that capped an unbeaten season and sewed up Eclipse Award honors as champion 2-year-old. He was accompanied on the flight from New York stablemate R Heat Lightning, the E. Paul Robsham Stable’s likely favorite in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI) following emphatic victories in the Gulfstream Oaks (GII) and Davona Dale (GII) at Florida’s Gulfstream Park.
The plane carrying the Pletcher stars arrived some two hours behind schedule because the flight was diverted shortly after takeoff to Dulles International Airport near Washington D.C. because of reported concern over a warning light that flashed on shortly after the H.E. Sutton Forwarding Company plane became airborne.
"Representatives from Tex Sutton had called and said there was a slight hiccup – something mechanical or some sort of a warning light,” McCarthy said. “The horses are here, everybody’s bedded down and everybody’s fine. We’ll take it with a grain of salt.”
McCarthy said Uncle Mo would gallop over the Churchill Downs surface on Tuesday and two works are planned for the colt before Kentucky Derby 137. Pletcher is expected to be on hand at Churchill Downs on Tuesday.
“The horse is in good order right now,” said McCarthy. “We’ll go ahead and gallop tomorrow. We’ve got two and a half weeks.”
Uncle Mo joins stablemate Stay Thirsty, Repole Stable’s winner of the Gotham, among five Kentucky Derby contenders now on the grounds and those horses will bid to give Pletcher his second consecutive victory in the Kentucky Derby. Pletcher picked up his first Derby victory last year with WinStar Farm’s Super Saver.
A win in the Kentucky Oaks by R Heat Lightning would be Pletcher’s third, following earlier victories by champion fillies Ashado (2004) and Rags to Riches (2007).
Mucho Man Man arrived at Churchill Downs much earlier following a van ride from Florida’s Gulfstream Park. The van carrying the imposing bay son of Macho Uno entered the stable gate around 2:30 a.m.
It is the first stop at Churchill Downs both for the 3-year-old Mucho Macho Man and his 41-year-old trainer, Kathy Ritvo, who is bidding to become the first woman to train a Kentucky Derby winner. The 41-year-old mother of two is also a heart transplant recipient, and because of the latter experience is doing to her best to enjoy every second of her visit. She arrived Sunday afternoon and took a side trip to Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, then made an early morning stop at Churchill Downs to gaze upon the illuminated Twin Spires against the night sky.
"It was beautiful – I tried to take pictures,” said Ritvo. “It was great. For me, it’s hard to believe that I’m here (at work) every day. I’m healthy and it was a long road. I think it’s amazing. I’m living a dream.”
And the preparation of Mucho Macho Man comes very close to meeting that same description. He turned in a strong seven-furlong work at Gulfstream Park on Saturday morning and has trained very well since a third-place finish in the Louisiana Derby (GII) at Fair Grounds after losing a shoe early in the race.
“He’s doing super,” she said. “He’s very consistent. He gives it his all every day. He has a great attitude – just great energy.”
Mucho Macho Man has a career record of 2-3-2 in eight races with earnings of $410,643. He has $370,000 in graded stakes earnings and is assured a spot in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field if all continues to go well.
Arkansas Derby (GI) winner Archarcharch is scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs early Tuesday morning, according to trainer William “Jinks” Fires. The colt will travel overnight by van and Fires said he should arrive at Churchill Downs around 7 a.m. (EDT).
A plane flight from Arkansas on Tuesday morning will bring Arkansas Derby runner-up Nehro and The Factor, the beaten favorite in that race, to Churchill Downs. Other Arkansas Derby runners expected on that flight are third-place finisher Dance City and Sway Away, who finished fourth.
ASMUSSEN STARS WORK – Monday is always a busy work day in the barn of trainer Steve Asmussen and several of his major 3-year-olds were on the track for serious training moves.
Black Rob Stables and Michael Ryan’s Silver Medallion, winner of the El Camino Real Derby (GIII) and fourth as the favorite in the Santa Anita Derby (GI), breezed four furlongs in :51.40. The son of Badge of Silver is a possible starter for Saturday’s $200,000-added Coolmore Lexington (GII) at Keeneland.
Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton’s Astrology, winner of the Iroquois (GIII) at Churchill Downs, worked a half-mile in :50..40. While a Kentucky Derby bid remains possible for Astrology, who ranks 13th among Triple Crown nominees in graded stakes earnings with $281,893, a run by the son of A.P. Indy in either the $200,000-added The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial (GIII) on the April 30 “Opening Night” at Churchill Downs or the $150,000-added Jerome (GII) on April 23 at Aqueduct appears more likely.
Maclean’s Music, a dazzling maiden winner for Asmussen at Santa Anita, breezed five furlongs over a fast track in 1:00.80 – a time that tied for the second fastest of 26 works at the distance. Dominus, another candidate for the Derby Trial, worked five furlongs in 1:01, which tied as the sixth-fastest move of the day.
Also on the Monday work tab was owner-trainer Tom McCarthy’s 2010 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI) winner General Quarters, who breezed four furlongs in :49.80.