JC / Railbird

Hope Mo Loses?

Steve Haskin on the two-prep campaign era for Kentucky Derby prospects and the importance of at least one “gut check” before the big race:

Here is the kicker: of the four horses who have won the Derby off only two starts, three of them – Street Sense, Mine That Bird, and Super Saver — had at least one gut check, where they engaged in a head-to-head stretch battle. The only one who didn’t was Big Brown, who was, well, Big Brown, and who faced relatively weak fields in the Florida Derby and Kentucky Derby.

The Wood is Uncle Mo’s only chance to get dirty before May, and aside from Jaycito and Toby’s Corner, not many seem interested in facing the champion. A pity. If he were to lose, it might not be such a bad thing, writes Paul Moran:

If all this comes together, the month between the Wood and Derby will be an exciting time in New York…. An untimely defeat on April 9, though it may stun his supporters and connections and cool the fervor, may well serve Uncle Mo. Secretariat was upset by stablemate Angle Light in the Wood, leaving trainer Lucien Lauren if not the entire racing world dazed and speechless. Remember what happened after that?


I don’t get this; we often look so hard at stats that common sense takes a back seat.

Street Sense, Super Saver and Mine that Bird were good horses that had gut checks because they were not overly superior to their competition. Big Brown (as proven by his Derby win) was superior. By all counts, Uncle Mo has similar superiority.

If Usain Bolt cruises through pre-olympic trials we would be fine with that. So what if he never got a gut check? He did not get one because he was 0.25 seconds faster than anyone alive. He’d be 1 to 9 to win the Gold.

If a horse like that comes around we start talking “preps” or “gut checks”. It doesn’t make much sense to me, because horses like Uncle Mo and Big Brown are closer to Usain Bolt than an “ok” sprinter.


Posted by PTP on March 22, 2011 @ 12:19 pm

I agree with PTP, Yes he might get T-Boned coming out of the gate at the Derby and get into some traffic trouble, but he won’t see that amount of horses in a prep race anyway, and right now he is just so much better than anyone else. If you remember Usain Bolt faced similiar criticism leading up to the last Olympics and he just went out and killed everybody anyway. Sometimes we have to accept that talent wins out over prep race scheduling.

Posted by Robert on March 22, 2011 @ 2:07 pm

In principle, I agree with PTP. However, I think past performance of humans in track and field is a much truer indication of future success than in horse racing. The clock is a fickle thing in horse racing – less superior conquer it from time to time, variants can have wild disagreement among the reasonable – two people can watch the same thing and have very different opinions…yadda, yadda. Not so in track and field, where “class” is not in much dispute, the clock isn’t in (much!) dispute, either.

That all said, we usually go by competition in horse racing – who beat who. Put a list together of all the horses Uncle Mo has beat in his four career starts and the picture gets a little more clouded, IMHO. Right now, we’re all just judging Uncle Mo on the clock, since he really hasn’t been challenged in a race. In track and field, this would be a serious indication of superiority. In horse racing, and in particular to Uncle Mo’s case, we see how quickly things can change when a little dirt winds up in the face of what we once concluded to be superior based on a limited set of performances.

Not ready to crown this one just yet, happy to overthink it until proven otherwise too.

Posted by o_crunk on March 22, 2011 @ 3:02 pm

I agree OC. I think Uncle Mo is the best 2YO/ early 3YO I have seen since BB, but that doesn’t mean he’ll dust everything, even if I am correct.

I take issue with the causality of ‘being tested’. I think that is completely overrated. If he loses the Derby, to me, it is because he lacked the talent to overcome, not because he was not looked in the eye in March.

Case the Race had a nice article up on Derby preps a couple of years ago. With vet work, sports-car horses and the way the game has changed I put little stock in old adages.

The good thing with horse racing – we’ll all be proven right or wrong very soon!


Posted by PTP on March 22, 2011 @ 5:32 pm