With an earthquake and a hurricane bombarding New York in the same week, it’s hard not to envision the onset of the apocalypse. But perhaps everything isn’t as it seems. Could the earthquake be the result of the drumming of a horse’s hoofs? And could the hurricane be born of a speedy colt’s wild rush down the stretch, the wind whipped into a fury with the gathering of his every stride? Whether or not you believe in a horse’s ability to stir the forces of nature, New York is already a-tremble with the news that its prodigal son has returned. This Saturday, Saratoga’s banner stakes race will be overshadowed by the star that is Uncle Mo when the champion steps up to run in his first race of the summer.
Last we saw him, Uncle Mo was working toward the Kentucky Derby as the early favorite. But after suffering his first loss in the Wood Memorial, something didn’t seem right about the 2-year-old Eclipse winner. In the weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby, rumors swelled around whether or not the horse was actually healthy enough to run on the first Saturday in May. The colt was put on antibiotics for a gastrointestinal infection after his third-place finish in the Wood, and he was cleared to continue training by his veterinarians. However, as the weeks shortened into days, Mo wasn’t recovering quickly enough to run in what would be the biggest race of his life. Ultimately, on the morning before the Derby, owner Mike Repole decided to scratch his colt at trainer Todd Pletcher’s recommendation. Mo was sent to a farm for recuperation and extensive testing; seven weeks later, he was finally diagnosed with cholangiohepatitis, a rare liver disease. With a true diagnosis, veterinarians were able to appropriately treat the colt, and he was able to make a full recovery and begin light training in mid-June.
Now, Uncle Mo returns to racing in grade I style. He will walk onto the familiar Saratoga track as the hometown hero, and backed as the favorite for the King’s Bishop, a 7-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds. This will be no cakewalk for the recuperated champion—he will have to face Flashpoint, a speedy chestnut who has never lost at this distance, as well as Caleb’s Posse, the winner of the Amsterdam at this track. Justin Phillip, the winner of the 7-furlong Woody Stephens, is also entered, as well as Dominus, the winner of the Dwyer Stakes. Uncle Mo has drawn post 7 in the eight-horse field. His most recent workouts have been bullets, and so one can only assume he is primed and ready for this test. As there is no clear division leader at this point, it would be exciting, to say the least, to see Uncle Mo return to his winning ways.
The King’s Bishop will be run on the undercard of the Travers, what’s usually the most highly-anticipated race of the Saratoga meet. Anyone in attendance at the grand old Spa is in for a treat this day, because not only do they get Mo on the undercard, but Shackleford, Coil, Stay Thirsty, and Ruler on Ice in the marquee event. It seems the year has finally culminated with the perfect storm of Titans for the “Midsummer Derby”—will this weekend finally produce one 3-year-old to rule them all?
The Grade I $250,000 King’s Bishop and the Grade I $1 million Travers will be televised live on NBC Sports, with coverage beginning at 5 p.m. ET.