SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) — Even in defeat, Uncle Mo staged a thrilling return to the races.
Making his first start since being sidelined for more than 4½ months with a life-threatening liver disease, Uncle Mo was beaten by a nose by Caleb's Posse in the $250,000 King's Bishop at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday.
Uncle Mo was the early Kentucky Derby favorite before being sidelined after the first loss of his career in the Wood Memorial in April. In his first race since, Uncle Mo stormed into the lead in the stretch as the crowd began cheering him home. But Caleb's Posse moved closer with every stride and caught the even-money favorite to win by the smallest of margins in a photo finish.
"He ran awesome," Uncle Mo's jockey John Velazquez said. "It was a tough task right off the bench. He was fighting all the way."
The seven-furlong King's Bishop was the race before the Travers Stakes, which was won by Uncle Mo's stablemate Stay Thirsty.
Winning time for the race was 1:29.59.
Owner Mike Repole said Uncle Mo lost his right rear shoe just after the start of the race, and that could affected the outcome.
"I think the horse ran great," Repole said. "He came off a liver disease and to lose like that, to come back from a five-month layoff the way he did — he just came up short."
Uncle Mo upstaged the Travers a year ago when he won his first career start by 14 1-4 lengths. He went on to take the Champagne and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and was voted 2-year-old champion. He opened the year by winning the Timely Writer before finishing third in the Wood. After several veterinarians examined him, the 3-year-old colt was diagnosed with cholangiohepatitis — a severe inflammation of the bile passages and adjacent liver, which sporadically causes hepatic failure in horses and ruminants," according to the Merck Veterinary Manual.
He was sent to Kentucky and spent several months at WinStar Farm before being return to trainer Todd Pletcher's barn in Saratoga in July.
With Uncle Mo healthy again, Repole wasn't certain about the colt's future.
"After what he did, I think we just really need to take a look," he said. "Uncle Mo might have two races left. He might have five races left. Or we might have seen Uncle Mo's last race. ... We're really going to micromanage Uncle Mo, and that might just be it, to be honest with you."
Trainer Todd Pletcher said Uncle Mo appeared to come out of the race in good shape.
"He's cooling out fine," Pletcher said. "The only thing is he pulled off his right hind shoe at the start. Aside from that he's unscathed, cooled out well and was in good spirits."