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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Uncle Schmo

I don't have a problem with a horse tiring in its last prep for a big race, especially a guy like Uncle Mo, who would figure to greatly benefit from the race conditioning given that he hadn't done a whole helluva lot for the last several months. I'm disappointed that he lost, though only because I wanted to bet against him as a big favorite in the Derby; but, being the contrarian that I aspire to be, maybe I'd turn around and bet on him if goes off at 6-1 or something like that. (He's 7-1 at Wynn. I can't even venture a guess as to how he'll be treated on the tote, which has offered up some big surprises on Derby day the last few years.)

But it's the way he gave up the lead so feebly, without any resistance at all, that made the race so astounding. I mean, it's not like he ran fast and then tired. He set a very moderate pace to the 3/4's, and actually slowed down from there - nearly 25 seconds to the mile. You'd think that a champion colt would at least be able to re-break and show some fight. The thing is, his championship was built on brilliance and dominance, and he never had to pass a real test until now. Oh man, did he fail. Pletcher feebly offered the fact that he grabbed a quarter at the start, but even he didn't sound the least bit convinced that that had much to do with the result, calling it "very minor and insignificant." He told reporters that the colt would have the standard blood work "when we have a horse that doesn't perform to our expectations." Would you blame the more cynical amongst us if they told you to expect the announcement of some relatively benign but career-ending injury (one which of course wouldn't prevent him from rearing up from behind a mare).

Tom Durkin immediately compared the outcome to Secretariat's defeat to Angle Light in 1973. The main difference there was that Secretariat was making his - get this - 12th career start in the Wood, nine of those as a two-year old. Maybe if Uncle Mo had nearly that kind of foundation, he would have handled this ordinary field even on a bad day. And the two (at least....Baffert says he'll carry on with Jaycito) injury-caused defections from the Derby trail this past weekend continues to highlight that whatever breeders and trainers are doing in this era of far less racing at two, just ain't working.

But it was a real shocker - far more so even than the turn of events that put the Rangers into the playoffs. Though you wouldn't have known that from reading Joe Drape's account of the race in the Times the next day. Surprise Contender for Kentucky Derby Bursts Out of Pack to Win Wood Memorial, read the headline, and there were just two short paragraphs devoted to the juvenile champ (who, if you didn't know, you'd never have guessed from reading the piece that he was a beaten 1-9 shot). Just seemed like really odd reporting (though Drape focused on Uncle Mo in an article the next day). I know that it's natural to write about the winner; but the winner clearly wasn't the story here.

Toby's Corner ran a nice race, earning an easily career-best, though still moderate, Beyer of 94 in his first race with blinkers. But it was a slowly run race - oddly-so in that 4th quarter - which allowed him and Arthur's Tale, an even more middling horse, to stay well within striking distance without running that hard at any point. Neither of them came close to cracking the 24 second mark for any quarter in the race, and they even slowed markedly down from 3/4s to a mile. (Makes one wonder if that clocking was even correct.) That surely helped the winner and runner-up close in around 12 seconds flat. Toby's Corner will have to do a lot more running to stay in touch at Churchill, and I don't consider him to be a legitimate Derby contender at all.


Anonymous said...

Why wouldn't you consider Toby's Corner a legit derby contender?

Who exactly does he have to beat? Six weeks ago, the internet was all abuzz at what a tremendous-looking crop of three year olds this was. Then they all started getting exposed like Marilyn Chambers. Anyone can win that stupid race. -jp

El Angelo said...

My preliminary guess is this race will be bet a bit like 2008: 3 horses will take a ton of money (Uncle Mo, Dialed In, The Factor) and the rest will be tightly packed between 12-1 and 25-1.

jk said...

It was a fun day at the Big A. Huge crowd, it felt like Belmont Day in the cramped Big A clubhouse. Lots of bettors were irate after Mo ran 3rd, there would have been a riot if he had run out of the money with >$700k bet to show on him. Bridge jumpers were on edge! I had Toby's Corner in a backup P3 so I can brag a little on this one. I also have 2 Uncle Mo rubber band bracelets! Thanks NYRA!!

Anonymous said...

Predicting the odds at this point is a complete waste of time. That said, I'm pretty sure Dialed in will be the 4.60-1 favorite. But in all seriousness, they haven't even run the Arky Derby or the Bluegrass yet. I knew I should have taken the 9-1 on the field in futures pool #3. -jp

Unknown said...

I'm not saying Toby's Corner is my Derby horse, but he was agile in traffic and game at the finish. Maybe he'll peak at the right time (unlike his daddy).

jeff said...

From a Beyer standpoint (if you believe in those figures), The Factor appears to be a standout at this point. He easily handled a horse some us had liked, Prem. Pegasus, at 7f, then duplicated that 103 figure at 1 1/16 (while PP, with his monster move next out, still only earned about a 96). Dialed In seems a notch below figure-wise. Big question is can he extend it another 3/16 -- but given the dwindling competition, he might.

Anyone with a feel for Sway Away? He closed strongly against The Factor in the 7F race, but then busted at 1 1/16 -- can the latter race be excused (bad start, bad tooth???)? He comes from way back which makes things tricky for Churchill, but if he bounces back to his form from that 7F race this weekend maybe he joins the mix of contenders?

Anonymous said...

Jp- I took a little bit of that future at 9-1. I also took jaycito and elite Alex for a hundred each. In pool 2 I bet the all field for the derby and oaks kinda big, and maybe 100 bucks on sway away I think.


Alan Mann said...

>>Why wouldn't you consider Toby's Corner a legit derby contender?

jp - you surely make a fair point when you ask "Who exactly does he have to beat?" and when you say "Anyone can win that stupid race." I would think that anyone who has invested hours of their time over the last few months obsessing over top ten lists might feel a little silly now.

I'm just not buying this race, not one bit. I cannot accept that there is any legitimacy whatsoever in two horses whose best fast track Beyer between them was 82 are suddenly Grade 1 animals. (I'm including Arthur's Tale in this analysis because, after all, he did finish only a neck back.) I don't know if it's hit any of us just how absolutely miserable Uncle Mo was in this race. The 94 Beyer given to the winner may even be generous considering that this was the only two=turn race of the day, and the Beyer guys were likely influenced by Uncle Mo when doing their, I mean, projections.

This race makes me recall an article that Brad Free wrote a few years ago, and I think jeff might remember this. He wrote that slow-paced races can actually help closers because they don't have to run fast to keep up. I remember that it seemed odd because it's totally counter-intuitive to what we think about pace, and front-runners and closers.

I think this was a perfect example of what Free was saying. These two horses actually ran slower with each subsequent quarter leading up to the final eighth (with the exception of Toby's Corner running 24.34 and 24.32 in his first and second quarters. So, when Uncle Mo was running a 25 second quarter to the 1/8th pole, these two guys found themselves right there having expended little recent energy. Contrast that with Dialed In's Florida Derby. After a 24.85 first quarter, he had to sprint 23.31 and 23.67 just to stay in contact. So, his "close," in a moderate 13.09, was actually a case of him tiring less than everyone else, which is basically your typical American dirt race. The Derby figures to be more typical than not, and Toby's Corner will find himself either way out of it, or hanging late from his early efforts. In my opinion, anyway.

In addition, the Wood has been a kiss of death since Monarchos. And I don't like his breeding at all. No surprise to see a son of Bellamy Road take to the Big A, but we recall what happened to him afterwards. And this horse has nothing on his catalog page whatsoever, other than a half-brother who won a restricted stakes in Florida.

So, does that answer your question? :-) I mean, of why I don't like him....certainly doesn't mean he can't win. But I'll lose if he does.

Anonymous said...

Toby's Corners only had to steady numerous times down the backstretch. Castro couldn't get him outside, and ended up backing up to last at the top of the backstretch. Castro stayed on the rail coming up to the stretch, found a seam, and angled out and then, angled back in. He had unquestionably, one of the toughest trips in the race, if not the toughest. The only fraction he gets credit for is the last eighth, in my book and that was sub-12 seconds. Keep your head in the sand Alan. Keep believing it'll be worth playing Mo is less.

Alan Mann said...

>>Keep believing it'll be worth playing Mo is less.

If you're trying to imply that I'm thinking of betting on Uncle Mo, I wouldn't play him with your money, not off that effort. I also totally disagree with your analysis of Toby Corner's trip. He saved ground on both turns, which made up for any trouble he might have had in my opinion. One good thing I'd say is that he got good experience running in traffic.

Anonymous said...

i would strongly suggest you reconsider betting on uncle mo period. those of us here in florida knew something was up--there had been a rumor for a while down here that he had had an unreported surgery sometime around december or january, and that was why the kid glove treatment and the cream puff prep schedule and the poor training. he didn't come out of the surgery the same horse. haskin at blood horse finally confirmed today in a reply to a post specifically asking about it. TBH i'm really surprised haskin finally let the question see the light of day. i had also tried to warn people off of THAS, anyone who saw him in person here knew something was wrong with him, but everything i'd try to post at blood horse, either shandler or haskin would refuse to post--same with the uncle mo surgery rumors. the game is fixed boys, those with insider information are also allowed to bet on the races and horses they report on. in any other field that would be illegal but horse players are a bunch of chumps, so who cares i know right? maybe drape's reportage of the wood can be explained by his having known that uncle mo was washed up from the surgery just like haskin did, but unlike haskin maybe drape has a conscience and couldn't stomach the lie anymore? at least drape isn't allowed to bet on the horses he covers (officially at least) due to an ethics clause in his nytimes contract.

Alan Mann said...

^^great post, thanks. that would certainly explain a lot....though not, as you say, why that information would be withheld from the public which bet the horse down to 1-9.

Anonymous said...

I wish I could book Haskin and Drape's action.

A lot of paranoia and not much substance. The Uncle Mo " rumors " were all over the place and have been for a VERY long time.

Figless said...

anon 439 can you link those uncle mo comments, i googled but could not find any specific confirmation by haskin, just a repeat of the rumors of unsoundness.

in any case, by sunday i think by 37-1 future wager on Santiva is going to look like value.

And Astrology at 50-1 is not horrible, I liked his return, although it falls under the radar because it occurred in NM.

Not that I bet a lot, but at least they should make the gate and give me some action.

Anonymous said...

as requested:

do control f and search for "geronimo2123"

you'll see the question in that post.

haskin's answer and confirmation is dated 12 april 2011 at 4:17am (if you did the search, it's the next hit under "geronimo," just press the down arrow and it should pop right up.

alan, not sure i follow why the witholding of the information wouldn't have contributed to him being bet down to 1-9--if he was a enron, it would be crystal clear wouldn't it?

mo was an artificial "bubble" on the tote board, if people had known he had had surgery on top of his weird training and prepping (or lack there of), do you still think he would have been bet down to 1-9? he skewed the market.

serious horseplayers try not to bet chalk, but they probably still had him in their exactas, tris, and supers. there weren't enough once- in-a-year-general-public-gamblers at the wood that day to have bet him down so low on their own, so that means that a significant number of experienced gambler's lost money on that horse--do you think haskin bet on him, knowing what he knew, even though he's been touting the horse as the second coming of jesus christ all year? what about the other "reporters"?

there are other reasons as well of course to keep it under wraps--to artificially boost his stud value, for one by keeping his soundness issues secret--but the most immediate effect has been to manipulate the odds on the races he has been in and in the future pools for the KY derby.

at least that's the way it seems to me.

El Angelo said...

Even assuming that some in the backstretch knew that something wasn't 100% right with Uncle Mo in the days, weeks or even months preceding the race, so what? This happens all the time in racing. If you don't like that aspect, stop playing. It also happens all the time in other sports.

steve in nc said...

Anon 12:53

I followed your path and found nothing like what you said. There is a post at that time and geronimo 2123 but no discussion of surgery or anything wrong. What's the deal?

Alan Mann said...

it's right above geronimo's post:

This normally spells soundness issues. And, wouldn't you know it? According to an anonymous Vet who works at a Florida Equine Center, UM had surgery to clear away bone fragments from a swollen joint (THAT is what really went on during Mo's Florida vacation). He has not come back as expected and the surgery was VERY hush hush.

It was kept secret because they felt all the hoopla might distract from the horse's recovery. And, he was the Derby buzz horse.

It is time for Pletcher and Repole to man up if this anonymous Vet is speaking the truth and this indeed is what happened. The truth has a way of getting out, although many racing blogs will not let you post it. The public would be much more forgiving of Mo, and it would explain the kid gloves and the tepid and spaced breezes the horse has received. Not only is he struggling with soundness issues, he is not fit enough, and at this juncture he would needs Larry Jones, not Mr. Easy Does It Pletcher.

Anonymous said...

None of Mo's connections has validated/substantiated anything that has been rumored, even from a so-called anonymous vet that Haskin may have "spoken" with. interviewers from the Paulick Report spoke directly to the Publicist (Publicist? What horse ever had a publicist? Is he a political candidate? Is he running for a government office?), a direct question about whether Mo had a surgical procedure performed, while he was in Florida? Ray Paulick reported that the Publicist did not give a direct answer. Yep, Mo must be running for office.

Figless said...

"haskin at blood horse finally confirmed today in a reply to a post specifically asking about it."

I am not seeking the rumor, plenty of those everywhere, I am seeking the above confirmation by Haskin, that would be meaningful.

A horse opening at 1-9 does not indicate smart money from a bunch of big gamblers were fooled, it indicates one win pool bridge jumper, perhaps the owner or a friend thereof, make ONE huge wager early.

This has been happening regularly again at NYRA, even on maiden claimers so nothing should be read into the fact that this horse was this price in this race.

Lets just say I am skeptical that a surgery would be performed on a horse of this magnitude and be kept quiet. The stud argument holds no merit, no one in KY is going to penalize this horse if he had a chip in his knee.

And Repole is not in this for syndication money, he does not need the cash and already announced this horse would run at 4 if he won the Derby.

Silly argument, it is 1-9 this horse has not had surgery.

Figless said...

Alan's comment is attributed to a blogger, not Haskin, for the record.

Anonymous said...

sheesh--see paragraph two then cut and paste it into google and it will come right up.

"Carrie, no horse has won the Derby without having at least one start at 2 since Apollo in 1882.

Christy, as you pointed out, he's not nominated so he can't run unless they want to supplement him for a lot of money. Remember, he had been a big disappointment to them early on.

Geronimo, according to my sources, he did have surgery after the Breeders' Cup. But that apparently was never made public.

Regarding Comma to the Top, that is a discussion in my column tomorrow. In short, never believe trainers.
Steve Haskin 12 Apr 2011 4:17 AM"

if you had done the control f search it would have led you right to haskin's confirmation in his reply to geronimo's post.

i bet on the wood too, using my home track's odds--he was almost as low there, so what gives? one bridge jumper placing huge bets on mo all over the country?

for the record, i didn't bet a dime, or lose a dime, on mo--i just have a this thing about scruples and transparency and fairness, and this smacks of a lack there of.

that people get ripped off everyday, everywhere, and in every field, doesn't make it right. but if you have no problem with, fine--i do. we'll just have to agree to disagree.

Anonymous said...

"Carrie, no horse has won the Derby without having at least one start at 2 since Apollo in 1882."

I fully expect this stat to be blown out in the next ten years. It's meaningless in today's day and age.

Regarding Mo, I don't understand who played down to 1-9 in the win pool. The show money I can understand on some level. I played the 6 at 40something to 1, a modest win bet, a bigger show bet, and underneath Mo in exactors and triples. My horse ran like shit. Either way, I'm not a fan of Pletcher at all. There has been a lot of smoke around the man in recent years and I feel as if he's gotten too big for his britches. It's a dirty game though, and I'm sure he's not alone.

I like the way Elite Alex is coming into the Arky Derby. Nice inside draw so Borel can at least save ground into the first turn. Not sure he can catch the factor but I think he's certainly on the board this Saturday. -jp

DiscreetPicks said...

Just in case you guys haven't heard yet:

Alan Mann said...

I hope everybody reads that, buys it, and bets him down to 2-1.

Anonymous said...

If they fucking take down the 7 in the 9th at gulfstreampark I'm fucking gonna get rich. Please stewards please. I need the 11 at 40-1.


Alan Mann said...

woo hoo, way to go, Dirty!!!

btw, my mother doesn't like your cursing. I told her you can't help yourself. :-)

Alan Mann said...

And I had Shotgun Gulch ($25.40) in the feature at Keeneland, so good day for the good guys!

Anonymous said...

really surprised they went with "GI infection," i guess they figure most people who follow racing don't have much experience with horses, because it's pretty hard to not notice a horse with diarrhea or colic--then again, pletcher felt life at ten was fine and dandy what do i know =/

if it really is a GI thing, mo won't be training over the next few weeks or ready for the derby, that's for sure..oh wait, i mean, yeah, he'll be training like a tremendous machine and will win the derby by 100 lengths in world the record time of 1:48.2

Anonymous said...

Sorry mom.


Figless said...

Anon, I completly agree about transparency in all industries.

IF it eventually comes out that he had surgery than I will scream bloody murder, but until then I remain very skeptical that they could pull this off, unless of course the surgery was very, very, minor such a a throat procedure. Until then I treat it as pure rumor.

As for him being the same price at your home track, not sure if you are overseas but if you are in the US the pool was comingled.

There is someone betting BIG early money at NYRA the last month or so and you can take advantage.

For the record I bet against Mo and caught the P3 and disappointing TRI, but not because of a rumored surgery, just because there was value elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

When is the last time a full field with 8-1 over 20-1 paid 90-1 in the triple? Yeah that must have sucked. -jp

Figless said...

jp, I stopped complaining when the guy next to me told me to look at it as the second choice, third choice and big favorite running 1-2-3.