Saratoga: Velazquez feels Uncle Mo stronger than ever heading into King’s Bishop

Saratoga: Velazquez feels Uncle Mo stronger than ever heading into King’s Bishop
By David Grening

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – When John Velazquez won Monday’s first race at Saratoga aboard Caixa Eletronica, it was his 36th victory of the meet, opening up a 10-win lead in the standings of what was supposed to be a wide-open battle for the leading rider. Seven of Velazquez’s 36 wins have come in stakes.

But as good a time as Velazquez is having in the afternoon, it is what has happened two mornings in the past week that really has Velazquez excited for the second half of the meeting. On Aug. 9, and again on Sunday, Velazquez guided Uncle Mo, last year’s 2-year-old champion, through workouts gearing up for his much-anticipated return in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop here on Aug. 27. Uncle Mo has not raced since finishing third in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 9.

Velazquez said Monday that he believes Uncle Mo is stronger than he was at the beginning of the year and he’s hoping to see in the King’s Bishop what he had hoped Uncle Mo could have done in the classic races earlier in the year, races Uncle Mo was forced to miss due to a liver disease. He’s hoping to see the Uncle Mo, who at 2 won a maiden race here by 14 lengths as well as the Champagne and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

“I hope that I can see what he could have done now,’’ Velazquez said. “Even though he’s coming back off a long layoff and has had a short period of time to get fit, he’s strong now.’’

On Sunday, Velazquez was aboard Uncle Mo when he worked five furlongs in 1:00.34 over the main track, finishing about two lengths ahead of his 3-year-old stablemate and work partner Turbo Compressor, who won the Curlin Stakes earlier this meet. In last Tuesday’s work, Uncle Mo went in company with Caixa Eletronica.

“Those are in-form horses that he’s working in company with,’’ said Todd Pletcher, the trainer of Uncle Mo. “That adds to your confidence level with his fitness. I’d be pretty excited about it at this point.’’

Uncle Mo will have one more work, presumably next Sunday, before the King’s Bishop.


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