The one-time heavy favorite for the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I), Repole Stable’s Uncle Mo, was out for a gallop at Churchill Downs on Tuesday as the reigning 2-year-old champion started his first full day at Churchill Downs since he returned to the track on Monday.

Five-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher, who won his first Kentucky Derby last year with WinStar Farm’s homebred Super Saver, was on hand at Churchill Downs to watch Uncle Mo’s earning morning gallop under exercise rider Hector Ramos.  He also watched E. Paul Robsham StablesR Heat Lightning, the likely favorite for the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (Grade I), and Repole Stable’s other Kentucky Derby hope, Gotham winner Stay Thirsty, gallop over Churchill Downs’ historic one-mile oval.

Uncle Mo was on the track around 6:30 a.m. (all times Eastern) and Pletcher indicated that would likely be the colt’s training schedule on through the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 7.

Ramos is also the regular exercise rider for R Heat Lightning,  and Pletcher said the rider’s dual duties would likely mean that she would be on the track during Churchill Downs’ special post-renovation break training session for Derby and Oaks contenders in the days leading up to those races.  Ramos will probably climb into the saddle aboard Uncle Mo around the time the track opens for training each day at 6 a.m.

“Same rider, and he can’t ride both horses,” Pletcher said.  “She’s probably the toughest horse on the grounds to gallop.  She’ll appreciate the quieter set from 8:30 to 8:45, where there’s not going to be as many horses.  That’s what I’m thinking right now, but I haven’t sorted it all out.”

Pletcher said Uncle Mo, who appeared likely to be one of the heaviest Kentucky Derby favorites in recent years until his third-place finish to Toby’s Corner in the $1 million Wood Memorial (GI) at Aqueduct, continues to be treated for gastrointestinal tract infection that was discovered a few days after that surprise setback.  Pletcher hopes Uncle Mo moves forward as he trains over the track where he won the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) last November.

“I think he’s in the same position that every horse in this race is in, that they need to have a really good 19 days,” Pletcher said.  “Obviously when you have a gastrointestinal tract infection, you know your appetite is not going to be as good as you’d like for it to be and that type of thing.  So we feel like he’s making progress and that he’s doing well but, like I said, he’s got to have a really good 19 days.  But so does Stay Thirsty and everyone else.

"Last year Super Saver was awesome for 21 days here.  That’s what you need, and that’s why everything has to fall into place.”

Pletcher-trained 3-year-olds Dance City and Brethren, who finished third and 11th, respectively in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (GI), are due in Kentucky this afternoon on a flight that lands in Lexington.  Dance City and several horses on that flight will travel by van to Churchill Downs, but Pletcher said Brethren would head home to nearby WinStar Farm for a couple of weeks rest and is definitely off the Kentucky Derby trail. He said there was no apparent problem with the half-brother to Super Saver, but some rest was in order following his run at Oaklawn Park.

“Physically there’s nothing,” said Pletcher.  “It was just a disappointing effort. WinStar’s right there, so they’re going to take him home and give him a freshening.”

Uncle Mo will work twice at Churchill Downs before the Kentucky Derby, but Pletcher is not sure at this point when those training moves will be scheduled.

“I want to get two works into him, that’s the only thing I’m thinking about,” Pletcher said.  “If I decide he needs a few extra days, then obviously that’s going to push the other one back a few days at the other end.”

Pletcher said Dance City is not being considered for the Kentucky Derby because he does not have enough graded earnings to make the field the maximum field of 20 horses.  He could be pointed toward the Preakness (GI), the second jewel of the Triple Crown at Pimlico on May 21He said that Joe Vann, who is not nominated to the Triple Crown but won the recent Illinois Derby (GIII), will probably be pointed to the $200,000 Peter Pan (GII) at Belmont Park on May 14.

ARKANSAS DERBY WINNER ARCHARCHARCH SETTLES INRobert and Loval Yagos’ ArchArchArch, the surprise winner of last week’s $1 million Arkansas Derby (GI), is settling in familiar surroundings at the Churchill Downs barn of veteran trainer William “Jinks” Fires.

The 3-year-old son of Arch arrived on the grounds of the home of the Kentucky Derby around 7:00 a.m. Tuesday after an overnight van ride from Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.

Archarcharch trained over the Churchill Downs racing surface during the summer and fall of his 2-year-old season and finished as the runner-up in his career debut over the track in late November.       The Arkansas Derby lifted his career record to 3-1-1 in six races, and Archarcharch will bring earnings of $832,744 into Kentucky Derby 137.

Horses that finished behind Archarcharch in the Arkansas Derby are scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs Tuesday afternoon following a flight that lands in Lexington.  The flight originated in California and made a stop in Hot Springs before heading to Kentucky.

Several of those horses will van from Lexington to Churchill Downs.  They include:

  • Runner-up Nehro, who will head to trainer Steve Asmussen’s Barn 33,
  • The Factor, the beaten favorite in the Arkansas Derby, who will head to trainer Bob Baffert’s stalls in Barn 33
  • The Jeff Bonde-trained duo of Sway Away, fourth in the Arkansas Derby, and Sunland Park Derby (GIII) winner Twice the Appeal – with both will be headed to Barn 42.

 Also scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs on Tuesday is Kentucky Oaks contender Joyful Victory, winner of the Fantasy (GII) at Oaklawn Park.  The J. Larry Jones-trained daughter of Tapit traveled by van from Oaklawn Park and will be stabled in Barn 43.