In the run-up to the Kentucky Derby five years ago, Uncle Mo was all the rage. He came blazing onto the scene as a two-year old, going to the prestigious late summer/early fall meet in Saratoga in 2010, and dominating the Champagne Stakes.
Uncle Mo followed that up by going to the Breeders Cup later in the year and winning decisively again. He was the early 2011 Kentucky Derby favorite and was ready to validate his status as favorite at New York’s Wood Memorial in March.
But fate intervened and said otherwise. A gastrointestinal infection caused Uncle Mo to finish third and the high-profile “Derby Prep” race and further diagnosis showed he had a liver disease. After losing seventy pounds, he was scratched from the Kentucky Derby. A brief comeback attempt was made, but it went nowhere and Mo was put out to stud.
I’m going to admit a sentimental attachment to this horse. My all-time favorite dog’s name was Mo and this was the first Kentucky Derby after he had to be put down because of a stroke. I saw it as destiny that Uncle Mo would win in honor of my pal.
That wasn’t to be, but five years later, the children of Uncle Mo are ready to take their place in the sun. Mo has sired three of the runners at Saturday’s Kentucky Derby and one of those is Nyquist, the 3-1 favorite.
Mo’s offspring also include Mo Tom (10-1), a horse owned by New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson. You’ll undoubtedly see some camera shots of Sean Payton, the head coach who is at Churchill Downs to have support his boss, have some mint juleps and escape worries over whether Drew Brees is finished, for at least a few happy hours.
The third offspring is Outwork (15-1), prepared by super-trainer Todd Pletcher and ridden by an excellent jockey in John Velasquez, who ended up winning the 2011 Kentucky Derby aboard Animal Kingdom at 21-1 odds.
Nyquist is getting the media attention and with good reason. Having won his first seven races, including the Florida Derby—probably the best of the prep races—he has a better pre-Kentucky Derby resume than American Pharaoh did last year.
But the best horse of them all might have been the one who never got a chance to race. The first Saturday in May falls on the 7th for the first time since that 2011 race. And things have come full circle for Uncle Mo, whose boys have a chance to avenge their daddy.