— Unraced since suffering his first career loss in April, Uncle Mo will make be the center of attention in the eight-horse King’s Bishop field. He appeared destined for greatness last year, compiling easy victories in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Champagne Stakes en route to being named champion two-year-old male, and the long-striding colt first appeared on the racing scene at Saratoga on 2010 Travers Day, winning his career debut by a whopping 14 ¼-length margin.
UNCLE MO was being pointed toward the Triple Crown races earlier this year in Florida, but nothing went smoothly for the Repole Stable-owned phenomenon. Instead of making his first scheduled start in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby around two turns, his connections opted for the one-turn Timely Writer Stakes against a soft group of rivals. His 3 ¾-length win did little to erase public concerns that something wasn’t right and Uncle Mo preceded to lose the Wood Memorial on April 9, sustaining his initial setback in his first start at 1 1/8 miles.
The Kentucky Derby remained on the radar and Uncle Mo was sent to Churchill Downs to prepare, but he began to lose weight and trained sparingly at times. He was eventually withdrawn from consideration and tests revealed a liver disorder, which forced him to the sidelines for a couple of months. Uncle Mo returned to Pletcher’s New York barn in July, and his recent workouts at Saratoga signal readiness.
The big question is whether Uncle Mo will be back to his old self. Fitness is a concern off the lengthy break and he’s never raced at the seven-furlong distance. And the competition is very salty. Uncle Mo will need an optimal performance to return to the winner’s circle, but he’s very talented and we know he loves the track at Saratoga. It will be no surprise to see him return to glory.
FLASHPOINT is the top rival, a proven one-turn specialist with a pair of supreme efforts this season. The gray colt exits a seven-length romp in the Grade 3 Jersey Shore Stakes at Monmouth Park, netting a 104 BRIS Speed rating, and he displayed the same electric turn of foot in his previous start at the King’s Bishop distance, receiving a 108 Speed figure for his 7 ¼-length win in the Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park.
The rail draw is a potential drawback, but Flashpoint has the speed to overcome the tricky post position and will be winging it from the start. The talented Wesley Ward charge is a very dangerous.
CALEB’S POSSE was overlooked at 12-1 in the local King’s Bishop prep race, the August 1 Amsterdam Stakes, but he proved prognosticators wrong in stunning fashion, rallying strongly to win going away by four lengths. The eye-catching effort garnered him a 108 BRIS Speed rating.
The late-running Caleb’s Posse, who registered a 112 BRIS Late Pace number in the Amsterdam, figures to receive the perfect set-up in the speed-laden King’s Bishop. He can’t be dismissed from win consideration.
DOMINUS may find the cut back in distance favorable. A 5 ¼-length maiden winner at seven furlongs earlier this year, the one-turn specialist went on post an excellent second in the Grade 3 Derby Trial and a comfortable victory in the Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes, both at one turn.
He stretched out to a two-turn trip for the first time in the Jim Dandy Stakes last out, but came up short in the stretch run, recording a non-threatening third behind Travers contender Stay Thirsty. Dominus has the tactical speed to race within striking range of the early leaders and the promising colt will look to pounce in the stretch.
JUSTIN PHILLIP is proven at seven furlongs, easily capturing the Grade 2 Woody Stephens two starts back, but he’ll need to improve upon a disappointing fourth in the Amsterdam. The stalker doesn’t look as fast his main rivals, but he’s got plenty of experience at this level and his affinity for the distance could net him a minor award.
COOL BLUE RED HOT faces a serious class check, but the improving colt posted a nice allowance tally two starts back, registering a triple-digit Speed rating, and exits a solid third in his stakes debut, the Dwyer. He appears to be training favorably for Angel Penna Jr., recording a couple of blazing workouts in preparation, and Cool Blue Red Hot is one to consider for a small share at long odds.
RUNFLATOUT invades from California for conditioner John Sadler, who has been red-hot at Del Mar recently, but the three-year-old will be looking for his first stakes win in a difficult spot. He could add to the early pace with his quickness, but it’s difficult to envision him being a significant factor late.
POSEIDON’S WARRIOR brings a two-race winning streak into the King’s Bishop, winning his last two starts at Parx Racing and Penn National by a combined 16 ¼ lengths, but he hasn’t been facing the likes of this competition. The Pennsylvania shipper might find himself overmatched at this level.