Breeders' Cup: All eyes on super Mo return
A fairly pedestrian programme on British soil should prompt even the most insular into a brief glance across the Atlantic this weekend, where no fewer than seven Grade One races will establish the lie of the land for the European raiders at the Breeders' Cup this autumn.
As things stand, the consensus remains that the American three-year-olds have failed to achieve a vintage standard — and that it could prove a very good year to take on the home team at their own game, on dirt in the Classic.
As such, particular interest will be reserved for the comeback of Uncle Mo at Saratoga.
In a sensational juvenile career, Uncle Mo won three starts by an aggregate of over 23 lengths — culminating in a runaway success in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
After being turned over at 1-10 in his trial, however, he was an 11th-hour scratching from the Kentucky Derby in May and subsequently diagnosed with a rare liver condition.
Happily, Uncle Mo has been earning rave reviews since returning to training and another “bullet work” at Saratoga last weekend persuaded Todd Pletcher to commit the colt to his first appearance since April 9 in the King's Bishop Stakes, over seven furlongs, on Saturday.
“I don't think he could be training any better,” Pletcher declared.
The record-breaking trainer says that where Uncle Mo had previously had a depressed appetite and dull coat, he now looks “awesome”.
Uncle Mo's return will especially delight admirers of Mike Repole, his owner, whose energetic and outspoken style has freshened up the elite scene.
Repole and Pletcher will also be represented by one of the favourites for the historic Travers Stakes, known as the “Midsummer Derby”, in Stay Thirsty.
“It's interesting when the same owner has these two horses in back-to-back races, one of them a $1m (£606,000) race and one a $250,000 race — and in some ways the $250,000 is bigger,” Pletcher said.
“You could have one of them win and still leave disappointed. It's certainly as exciting as any Travers Day I can remember.”
The Irish will be keeping things interesting this side of the ocean, with Maybe putting her unbeaten record on the line at the Curragh on Sunday.
The Ed Dunlop-trained Snow Fairy, denied a run at Deauville last weekend by some obscure and exasperating red tape, is now likely to be diverted to the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on Saturday week.
Colm O'Donoghue delivered Wild Wind with a telling late burst to land the Listed Vincent O'Brien Ruby Stakes at Killarney last night.
“The pace was strong throughout and she quickened up and did it well,” said O'Donoghue.”
Meanwhile at Leicester, it was success all round for George Baker in the John Smith's Handicap as the horse, the trainer, jockey and owner all share that name.
“It's the first time I've won on him so it's nice to do it, although it's a bit of a gimmick,” said the jockey.