Uncle Mo On Top of Initial Kentucky Derby Graded Stakes Earnings List

Feb 14, 2011 Darren Rogers

Uncle Mo, the flashy unbeaten winner of the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs in November, enters this year’s 3-year-old season atop the Graded Stakes Earnings list that will likely determine the participants in the field for the 137th running of the $2 million Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) on Saturday, May 7.

The Kentucky Derby field has been limited to 20 starters since 1975, and graded stakes earnings accumulated in prestigious races on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” have determined the field for the 1 ¼-mile classic since 1986.

Sixty-two North American graded stakes events for juveniles are in the books – 35 for colts and geldings or open company and another 27 for fillies – and Uncle Mo, the champion Two-Year-Old Male for 2010 campaigned by Michael Repole, the president and co-founder of Vitaminwater and Smartwater maker Glaceau, heads the early list with $1.26 million in earnings. In addition to his convincing 4 ¼-length triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs, the unbeaten son of Indian Charlie ran away from the field to win the Grade I Champagne at Belmont Park by 4 ¾ lengths. He also won his August debut at Saratoga by 14 ¼ lengths. 

Uncle Mo, a bay colt bred by Dr. D. Michael Cavey of Respite Farm in Paris, Ky., resumed serious training Jan. 30 at Palm Meadows Training Center in South Florida, and breezed four furlongs Sunday in :47.45 – his third workout of the year. Trainer Todd Pletcher, who captured his first Kentucky Derby last year with Super Saver, says Uncle Mo is likely to launch his 3-year-old campaign in the Grade II, $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby on March 12. The 1 1/16-mile race would likely serve as a steppingstone to Aqueduct’s Grade I, $750,000 Wood Memorial at 1 1/8 miles on April 9 – four weeks in advance of Kentucky Derby 137.

In addition to Uncle Mo, the first Graded Stakes Earnings Top 20 includes Gourmet Dinner ($700,000), Boys At Tosconova ($532,060), J P’s Gusto ($490,000), Comma to the Top ($456,000), the filly Turbulent Descent ($295,550), Soldat ($270,000), Rogue Romance ($258,000), Dialed In ($240,000), Clubhouse Ride ($210,000), To Honor and Serve ($210,000), Decisive Moment ($200,000), Jaycito ($200,000), Santiva ($180,254), Anthony’s Cross ($162,000), Riveting Reason ($147,500), Blue Laser ($143,502), Willcox Inn ($139,000), Silver Medallion ($124,334), Brethren ($120,000) and Sweet Ducky ($120,000).

On Saturday, Daily Racing Form reported that Boys At Tosconova, the runner-up to Uncle Mo in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, had been taken out of training, sent to a Kentucky farm for some R&R and is off the Kentucky Derby trail.

The initial Graded Stakes Earnings List includes all 3-year-olds – colts, geldings and fillies – who were made eligible to this year’s Triple Crown at $600 per horse when the early nomination period closed Jan. 22. Of the 364 early nominees, only 68 have earned graded stakes money thus far, but 26 open company races remain to be run, plus another 17 for fillies. There also will be a late period for nominations at $6,000 each that will close on Saturday, March 26.

A trio of graded stakes preps are scheduled for the week ahead (11 weeks in advance of Kentucky Derby 137): Saturday’s Grade III, $300,000 Risen Star at Fair Grounds (1 1/16 miles), Sunday’s Grade II, $150,000 San Vicente at Santa Anita (seven furlongs) and the Grade III, $250,000 Southwest (one mile) on Monday, Feb. 21.

Restricted to 3-year-old Thoroughbreds, horses only have one chance to win the Kentucky Derby, and it’s quite an accomplishment just to receive a berth in the starting gate. The North American registered Thoroughbred foal crop for horses born in 2008 is estimated at 33,550 by The Jockey Club, but only 20 are allowed to run in “The Run for the Roses.”

Twenty horses have entered the Derby every year since 2004, and 10 of the last 12 years. The 20th and final spot in the starting gate – a.k.a. “the bubble” horse – has varied year to year. Last year, it took a record $218,750 for eventual fourth-place finisher Make Music for Me to make the field. In 2009, it took only $55,500 for Nowhere to Hide to complete the 20-horse lineup. Over the last five years, the final horse to make the field has earned an average of $130,450 in graded stakes races.

Graded stakes are considered Graded or Group status assigned to the race by the International Cataloguing Standards Committee in Part I of the International Cataloguing Standards as published by The Jockey Club Information Systems, Inc. each year.

In the case of a tie for the final entry position or the determination of all remaining starters, preference is given to horses that accumulated the highest earnings in non-restricted stakes races. If a tie still remains, the final spots in the starting gate will be determined by lot or a “shake.” There is no “also-eligible” list.

In addition to Triple Crown nomination fee, owners must pay $25,000 to enter the Kentucky Derby by 10 a.m. ET on Wednesday, May 4, and an additional $25,000 to start. If there are less than 20 Triple Crown nominees entered, a horse may be supplemented to the Derby for $200,000.

The Kentucky Derby post position draw – a tradition “pill pull” in which horses’ entry blanks are pulled simultaneously with a numbered pill to determine what stall a horse will break from the starting gate – will be held at Churchill Downs on Wednesday, May 4, at 12 p.m. ET.

The winner of the Kentucky Derby will receive gold trophy plus an estimated $1.24 million payday. A total of $400,000 will be awarded to the runner-up, $200,000 to third, $100,000 to fourth and $60,000 to fifth.

The 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby, which is the oldest continuously held sporting event in America since its inaugural running at Churchill Downs in 1875, is the first leg of horse racing’s coveted Triple Crown classics: three races at three racetracks over three distances in a five-week period. Two weeks after the Derby on Saturday, May 21 is the 136th Preakness Stakes near Baltimore at Pimlico Race Course over 1 3/16 miles. The annual series concludes three weeks after the Preakness on June 11 with the 143rd Belmont Stakes – the 1 ½-mile “Test of the Champion” – at New York’s Belmont Park.

A Triple Crown sweep – one of the most difficult feats in all of sports – hasn’t occurred in 32 years and has been accomplished on just 11 occasions: Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1942), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978). Fifty others have finished one win shy of the honor.

Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 7, 2011. The track’s 2010 Spring Meet is scheduled for April 30-July 4, 2011. Churchill Downs has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record seven times and the event will return to the track for its next renewal on Nov. 4-5, 2011. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.churchilldowns.com.

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