Thursday, November 10, 2011
The 'Mo' Show comes to an end
By Bob Ehalt
For more than a year, Mike Repole has been on a wild amusement park ride, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s been a long rollercoaster ride, that’s for sure,” the Queens native said. “But that’s me. I live on a rollercoaster. That’s the way I like it. [I’d] rather be on a rollercoaster with all the ups and downs than on a merry-go-round where all you do is slowly go around in circles and wind up where you started.”
For Repole, a year’s worth of euphoric highs and depressing lows came to an end Monday in the aftermath of the bitter disappointment of watching his two 3-year-old stars -- Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty -- finish 10th and 11th in a field of 12 in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.
Stay Thirsty is expected to race next year, yet the BC Classic served as the final chapter in the celebrated yet controversial career of Uncle Mo. A brilliant, undefeated 2-year-old champion a year ago, Uncle Mo seemed destined for Triple Crown greatness. Instead he was denied by a liver ailment that knocked him out of the Kentucky Derby and reduced his 3-year-old highlight reel to that one single magical moment when he ran a hole in the wind and dominated older horses in the Kelso Handicap.
“Retiring Uncle Mo was a sad decision but it was an easy one to make,” Repole said. “Uncle Mo was the horse I dreamed about for 30 years. He was a once in a generation horse and to only see glimpses of how good he could be was tough. But the condition he has is chronic. The training for the Classic and the race he ran in the Kelso were too hard for him. We could give him off until May and the problem with his liver could flare up again, so retiring him was the only way to do right by the horse.”
Uncle Mo had been diagnosed in the spring with cholangiohepatitis, and when a medical examination after the BC Classic found a troubling elevated enzyme level in the colt, retirement was the only sensible option.
That decision brought down the curtain on a career that saw Uncle Mo capture all three of his starts at two, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Champagne, but this year he won only two of his five starts.
“Perhaps Uncle Mo will be remembered as the Gale Sayers of horse racing. He did a lot in a short amount of time, just like Sayers did with the Bears,” Repole said. “It was a longshot to get him back to the races after he came down with cholangiohepatitis and as you look back, seeing how he came out of the Classic, it just makes the Kelso even more of a ‘wow’ race.
“His 2-year-old season was brilliant and you can’t say that about a lot of 2-year-olds. His win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile was so impressive that it will be talked about 10 years from now. He was a horse who generated so much hope and yet so many what ifs, and that’s what keeps you coming back to this sport.”
Uncle Mo will stand at Ashford Stud in Kentucky as part of a deal in which Repole retained a share of the horse. Needless to say, in a few years’ time there will be no shortage of Uncle Mo offspring carrying Repole’s blue and orange colors.
“I will be owner of Uncle Mo for the next 20 years. I think he’s going to be a fantastic sire and I’m looking forward to buying a lot of his babies,” Repole said. “And if for some unexpected reason he does not turn out to be good at stud, I’ll bring him to a farm where he can live out his life in peace. He’s like a family member to me.”
Stay Thirsty’s breeding career will have to wait a while as the 3-year-old is slated to return to the races next year, with Grade 1 stakes like the Whitney, Woodward, Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders’ Cup Classic serving as his ultimate goals.
One place Stay Thirsty will not be seen again is Churchill Downs, a track that ill suits the son of Bernardini. Stay Thirsty was unplaced in three Chuchill starts throughout his career: this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic and Kentucky Derby and the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
“Stay Thirsty will never race at Churchill Downs again, that’s for sure,” Repole said.
Like Uncle Mo did last year, Stay Thirsty could earn an Eclipse Award for Repole, but the Long Islander said Stay Thirsty has probably “a 20 percent” chance of being named the champion 3-year-old male, even though he owns wins in the Travers, Jim Dandy and Gotham, a runner-up finish in the Belmont Stakes and a third-place finish behind Flat Out and BC Classic winner Drosselmeyer in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
“If anybody else owned Stay Thirsty, he’d be the champion 3-year-old,” Repole said. “But Stay Thirsty gets overshadowed by Uncle Mo.”
Meanwhile, Repole will enter 2012 with a different type of 1-2 punch from his top 3-year-olds.
A day before Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty went down to defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Repole’s Stopshoppingmaria nearly pulled off an upset victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. In making her turf debut, the 2-year-old daughter of More Than Ready grabbed the lead at the start and was still in front at the eighth pole. But just as visions of a second Breeders’ Cup win started dancing through Repole’s mind, Stopshoppingmaria was collared and passed in the final yards by the victorious Stephanie’s Kitten.
A runner-up in the Frizette to My Miss Aurelia, who is a cinch to be named the champion 2-year-old filly, Stopshoppingmaria has shown unusual versatility in her career and could wind up running either short or long on grass or dirt next year.
Repole also said his stakes-winning 2-year-old colt Overdriven, who was taken out of training after a couple of sub-par works in August, is doing well and is expected to resume training in December with a February target date for his 3-year-old debut.
Before that, Repole, one of New York’s leading owners, expects to send out the duo of Calibrachoa and Caixa Eletronica in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 26.
An unforgettable rollercoaster ride may have come to an end, but with Mike Repole rest assured it won’t be long before he hops on board for the next one.