The details for the Breeders’ Cup Classic are now set but the anticipation just continues to build. Post positions were drawn on Monday and Churchill Downs handicapper Mike Battaglia released the official morning-line odds.
To the surprise of many, Battaglia made Uncle Mo and not Havre de Grace, the 5-2 morning-line favorite for the Classic. That made Havre de Grace the 3-1 second favorite in the race. Todd Pletcher’s comeback horse drew the number 12 spot while Havre de Grace will run from the 10th position. Trainers for both horses seemed content with the post positions drawn.
Uncle Mo is a horse that has earned his accolades. He smoked his competition by over 14 lengths in his first race. He broke Secretariat’s record in his second race in the Grade 1 Champagne. He finished his two-year-old season undefeated after taking the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by four lengths and went on to win the Eclipse award. He was the favorite to win the 2011 Kentucky Derby. So why the surprise at Battaglia making him the favorite to win the Classic this Saturday at Churchill Downs?
Well, let’s pick up where we left off shall we? While Uncle Mo was the favorite in the early talk for the Kentucky Derby in 2011, he stumbled before he ever got there. He came in a disappointing third in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. Despite that loss, he was still the second choice going into the Kentucky Derby. But he would never see the chute. it was discovered that the colt developed a rare liver disorder that not only kept him out of the Derby, but saw him lose 200 lbs and take months to recover from.
Through much time and patience, Uncle Mo returned in late August to take second in the King’s Bishop and went on to notch his first post-recovery win in the Kelso at Belmont in early October. While it’s amazing that the colt has even returned to racing, there are reasons beyond his illness why many believe he will not win the Classic this Saturday. At the top of the list of reasons is the fact that he has never won a race longer than 11/16 miles. In fact, he has never even attempted the 1 1/4 miles distance of the Classic in his career. Perhaps most importantly, many believe that this horse is simply not ready for the challenge that the Classic represents. He has not had the time to adequately prepare for it. Aside from Ice Box, every other horse in the field has had at least five races this year. And except for To Honor and Serve, every other horse has had at least one 1 1/4 miles race this year to prepare.
Speculation will come to an end in less than two days when the Classic runs. Perhaps Pletcher and company will look like geniuses when the dust settles. But more likely it will seem too much, too soon for this special colt.