Soldat turned in an impressive performance in winning the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park last weekend, but it wasn’t enough to supplant Uncle Mo as the top contender for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont. A NTRA Poll of top three year olds listed Uncle Mo at the head of the field by a significant margin.
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) poll is similar to rankings polls in college football and basketball, with horses given a graduated number of points based on where voters rank them. Uncle Mo, the son of Indian Charlie, hasn’t raced as a three year old but has been the presumptive favorite for the Triple Crown races since his win in the Grade 1 Breeder’s Cup Juvenile as a 2 year old. Uncle Mo received a total of 207 votes including 19 first place votes. Soldat was second with 177 votes and was the only other entrant to be listed as the top choice on any voter’s ballot receiving 3 first place votes.
Dialed In was third (159 votes) and held a sizable margin over the fourth place horse, Mucho Macho Man (120 votes). Brethren was next on the list (103 votes) followed by Fountain of Youth third place finisher To Honor and Serve (69 votes). The runner up in that race, Gourmet Dinner, was next on the list and may be somewhat underrated with 46 votes. Flashpoint (44 votes), Jaycito (43 votes) and The Factor (39 votes) rounded out the top ten.
Despite not racing this season, Uncle Mo has turned in some impressive workouts and will make his three year old debut in the $100,000 Timely Writer Stakes on March 12 at Gulfstream Park. There is apparently some concern about that race drawing a big enough field, so trainer Todd Pletcher has said that if that ends up being the case that Uncle Mo will race in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs:
“The one-mile versus a mile and a sixteenth wasn’t so much the determining factor. The biggest thing is to get him a race under his belt and set him up for the Wood Memorial. There was really no right or wrong choice. Uncle Mo is very comfortable at Palm Meadows, and that surface is almost identical to Gulfstream’s, while the Tampa track is a little bit different.”
“Throw in the fact that it’s a shorter trip, and they were probably the X-factors that helped break the tie for us. But if the Timely Writer doesn’t fill, we’re very comfortable going to the Tampa Bay Derby. I wouldn’t expect a large field (for the Timely Writer). We’ll see if it fills.”
Some observers have criticized Pletcher for what they suggest is an effort to ‘dodge better competition’, but that hasn’t been enough to knock Uncle Mo from his perch as the presumptive favorite heading into the Kentucky Derby, Belmont and Preakness races.