Uncle Mo continues comeback with 'strong' work at Saratoga
Owner Mike Repole and three generations of Pletchers — trainer Todd, his father, Jake, and Todd's 12-year-old son, Payton — gazed toward the backstretch of Saratoga's Oklahoma training track. They were watching Uncle Mo, who was running like his old self.
With jockey John Velazquez on him for the first time since Kentucky Derby week, last season's 2-year-old champion breezed 5 furlongs Tuesday in company with stablemate Caixa Eletronica. Uncle Mo gave the 6-year-old stakes-winner a head start of about 2 lengths and was a half-length in front, on the outside, at the wire. The Daily Racing Form timed Uncle Mo in 1:00.42 on a comfortable, sunny morning, and his gallop out for 6 furlongs was 1:14.52.
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The fastest of Uncle Mo's four works at Saratoga boosted Todd Pletcher's belief that he's coming back strong. "Other than the unusually difficult owner, I'm very happy with things," Pletcher joked.
"I'm really, really pleased. I think it was an exceptionally strong work. For him to outwork an older horse who's fitter than him gives me a lot of confidence."
Velazquez liked what he felt beneath him.
"Very good," he said. "He did everything perfectly this morning, couldn't ask for anything better."
Uncle Mo hasn't raced since finishing third, his first career loss in five starts, April 9 at Aqueduct in the Wood Memorial. He missed the Triple Crown with what subsequently was diagnosed as an inflamed liver. Repole and Pletcher have targeted the Grade I, 7-furlong King's Bishop Stakes for 3-year-olds on Aug. 27, Travers Day, for his comeback.
"To get to this point from where we were four months ago is amazing," Repole said of Uncle Mo. "He's getting closer to the Mo we know and love. I think he'll be more than ready for the King's Bishop."
Personal Ensign could be Round 7
One of the most compelling rivalries in sports could see its next chapter unfold at Saratoga on Aug. 28 in the Grade I, $300,000 Personal Ensign for fillies and mares. The 1¼-mile race remains under serious consideration for both Blind Luck and Havre de Grace, who have split decisions in their two meetings this year.
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who will be inducted into racing's Hall of Fame on Friday, said the Personal Ensign remains on the radar for Blind Luck, who last year defeated Havre de Grace by a neck in Saratoga's Grade I Alabama.
Overall, the two have met six times, with Blind Luck also victorious in the 2010 Delaware Oaks and the Grade II Delaware Handicap on July 16, and Havre de Grace triumphant in the 2010 Grade II Fitz-Cotillion at Parx Racing and the Grade III Azeri at Oaklawn Park on March 19.
In their other meeting, Blind Luck and Havre de Grace finished second and third, respectively, behind Unrivaled Belle in the 2010 Grade I Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic.
"The Personal Ensign was always on the table, but I am also looking real hard at the Pacific Classic on the same day (at Del Mar)," Hollendorfer said.
Havre de Grace owner Rick Porter said he and trainer Larry Jones are leaning toward the Personal Ensign, rather than the Grade I Woodward against older males a week later.
"I would say we are 85 percent to run in the Personal Ensign," Porter said.
U of L approves Pitino contract extension
The University of Louisville Athletic Association, which agreed to a contract extension through 2017 with men's basketball coach Rick Pitino last April, approved the financial terms, The Courier-Journal reported Tuesday.
Pitino's base salary will remain at $3 million annually through the 2102-13 season, then rise to $3.9 million for the final four seasons of the contract. That $3.9 million amount matches what he will be making the next three seasons with his base salary and share of a retention bonus combined. That retention bonus goes away after the 2012-13 season, and Jurich said the new base amount is just designed to keep Pitino's salary where it is.
■ Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said he's shutting down incoming freshman Quinn Cook until at least mid-September to allow his injured knee to heal further. Krzyzewski said that he "definitely" thinks Cook will be back by the time pre-season practice starts in October. Team officials said Cook will travel with the Blue Devils on their trip later this week to China and Dubai, but he won't play.
Cook played his senior year in high school last season with injured ligaments in his right knee. Krzyzewski said he could tell during recent pre-trip workouts that the knee wasn't strong enough. Krzyzewski said his goal is for Cook to resume individual workouts in September.
Tiger 'looks good' in practice round
Tiger Woods snuck in a quick nine holes Tuesday afternoon in preparation for the PGA Championship, his first major since the Masters. Woods, paired with Arjun Atwal at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Ga., was joined by teacher Sean Foley — who was adjusting and tweaking his star pupil's stance and swing throughout the round. Woods hasn't won a tournament since November 2009 and hasn't won a major since the U.S. Open three years ago.
Atwal, though, said Woods is closing in on the swing that's won him 14 major titles. "He looked good," Atwal said. "He's really flushing it and got that sound again. He just needs more repetitions."
Rules violation costs Sauter trucks lead
Johnny Sauter is no longer the points leader in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Sauter's No. 13 truck failed inspection after Sunday morning's race at Pocono Raceway, and on Tuesday NASCAR penalized Sauter six championship points. Sauter was leading Austin Dillon by five points before the penalty was assessed. Sauter's truck did not meet the maximum right-rear bed panel height in post-race inspection.
The last word
Golfer Bryce Molder, who has missed the cut in half of the 22 PGA Tour events he's played in, was hitting a few practice chips on the par-3 seventh hole ahead of the PGA Championship, when he said hello to the small group sitting in the shade. One fan asked if Molder wanted them to stay quiet or get loud as he hit. Molder said:
"I won't be able to hear you for all the demons I got in my own head."