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Post Time: Uncle Mo faces strong field in King's Bishop

By Gene Kershner

The big story facing the other seven horses in the field of the Grade 1 Foxwoods King’s Bishop at historic Saratoga Race Course on Saturday afternoon before a national television audience (Ch. 2, 5 p.m.) will be which Uncle Mo shows up. It will be televised as part of the Travers Day coverage by NBC and is one of the best races of the day.

Last year’s 2-year-old champion returns after a four-month layoff that caused him to miss the Triple Crown season after being diagnosed with cholangiohepatitis, a rare liver disorder. After being treated for the ailment and a trip to Win Star Farm for some light training, this is the race his connections have been pointing to.

He hasn’t picked the easiest spot to reenter the racing scene as a number of formidable 3-year-old colts will line up in attempts to thwart his comeback. Trainer Todd Pletcher discussed with the media on Wednesday why this is the right spot for Mo.

 “We envisioned it’d be a tough spot,” said Pletcher, Saratoga’s leading trainer.  “We’re somewhat limited in options. When you have a horse like that who has accomplished a lot and doesn’t have any allowance conditions left, you have to start somewhere. We think he’s the kind that’s talented enough to do something off the bench like that.”

Here’s a look at the field and some notable nuggets listed in the past performances:

1 – Flashpoint:  There’s a lot to like about the Pomeroy colt, especially his most recent works. He came back from his difficult performance in the Preakness to win the Grade 3 Jersey Shore going away by seven lengths. He’ll be facing much tougher in here, however, but he looks to be the early speed and this distance could be right in his wheelhouse (see Gulfstream performance on Feb. 26).

2 – Caleb’s Posse: Impressive Grade 2 winner of the Amsterdam shows he can handle the Spa track after cutting back in distance from the Iowa Derby. I don’t like betting a horse off his top speed figure, so I’ll take my chances on others as his last was at the top of his form cycle (third off the layoff), so he may be a bounce candidate.

3 – Runflatout: California shipper cuts back in distance for trainer John Sadler, who wins 20 percent of the time shipping horses. Has run on dirt before breaking his maiden at Santa Anita in a sprint race where he sported a nice speed figure. I like his chances in here to pull the upset with a juicy morning line of 8-1 on the cut-back angle. Notice in the route race two back, who happened to beat him by a length. Yes, that’s the Haskell winner Coil, who will be running in the main event on Saturday. My pick.

4 – Dominus: Another horse cutting back in distance after finishing third in the Jim Dandy. If you look at his running lines he has been right there at the 6-furlong mark in each of his route races, including his Grade 2 Dwyer win. Asmussen has had a very good Spa meet, winning 29 percent of his starters. He rates a chance, and will be included on my multi-race tickets as a win contender.

5 – Poseidon’s Warrior: Interesting shipper from Pennsylvania who has run two monster races against lesser foes. The Speightstown colt certainly is stepping up in class on Saturday with a jockey who rarely rides at the Spa. I look for him to be out on the lead early, setting fast early fractions, but don’t believe these will let him get away.

6 – Justin Phillip: The second Asmussen horse in the race, his sire First Samurai , won the 2005 Hopeful on this same track. He won the Grade 2 Woody Stephens in the slop on Belmont day at the distance. His works don’t indicate anything special and he may have fired his best bullet on the off track in June. He could possibly crack the superfecta, but not counting on it.

7 – Uncle Mo: What to do with the reigning Juvenile champ? He certainly has the talent to win, but off the long layoff this seems like an awful difficult spot for him to rebound. Pletcher is 2/30 off long layoffs in Grade 1 races over the past five years. I think he’ll need one before showing off what he’s capable of. He’ll be bet hard based on the Pletcher/Velazquez combo, in addition to the big name recognition, so there will be little betting value, but we really have to think through whether to leave him off multirace exotic tickets.

8 – Cool Blue Red Hot: The Harlan’s Holiday colt has been off since early July, but trainer Penna shows decent numbers off the layoff. His work tab shows some sharp times, so he appears fit and wouldn’t surprise me if he pulled the upset at a big price. The long-shot play.

Post Time Outlook:

1 – Runflatout                                                                              

2 – Dominus

3 – Uncle Mo

 Good luck and let’s go cash some tickets!

The field for the Grade 1, $250,000 Foxwoods King’s Bishop:

PP

Horse

Jockey

Wgt

Trainer

Odds

1

Flashpoint (FL)

C H Velasquez

121

W A Ward

5-2

2

Caleb's Posse (KY)

R Maragh

121

D K Von Hemel

9-2

3

Runflatout (KY)

R Albarado

117

J W Sadler

8-1

4

Dominus (VA)

J R Leparoux

121

S M Asmussen

6-1

5

Poseidon's Warrior (MD)

F Pennington

119

R E Reid, Jr.

20-1

6

Justin Phillip (KY)

R A Dominguez

121

S M Asmussen

15-1

7

Uncle Mo (KY)

J R Velazquez

121

T A Pletcher

9-5

8

Cool Blue Red Hot (KY)

M R Cruz

117

A J Penna, Jr.

12-1

 

Gene Kershner is a Buffalo-based turf writer and handicapper who blogs at equispace.blogspot.com and tweets @EquiSpace.

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About Sports, Ink

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has served in a variety of roles in Buffalo sports in the past 35 years, including reporter, talk-show host, baseball announcer, public relations staffer and author. He covers the Bandits and running for The News when not working as an editor.

@WDX2BB | bbailey@buffnews.com

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