Uncle Mo: Kentucky Derby Contender or Breeders' Cup Cursed?

Jeff DebeleCorrespondent IMarch 9, 2011

Can Uncle Mo repeat Street Sense's path to the Kentucky Derby Winner's Circle?
Can Uncle Mo repeat Street Sense's path to the Kentucky Derby Winner's Circle?Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

With less than three months remaining until the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby, Uncle Mo appears to be the early odds-on favorite.

In the middle of the Derby prep season, where past victories are debated and scrutinized, one would think that the horse with the highest earnings would have the best chance to take home the roses come May 7th.

However, the challenge handicappers must overcome how to react to Uncle Mo’s dominance in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, the wealthiest of all prep races.

Yes, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile has a purse of $2 Million. Yes, it was held last year on the dirt at Churchill Downs. Yes, it goes a solid distance of 1 1/16 miles. And of course, it pits some of the best horses in the world against each other.

Why then, since 1984, has only one horse (Street Sense) won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and then gone on to repeat this success in the Kentucky Derby?

There does not appear to be a clear-cut answer. However, at this point the betting public does not seem to care.

After the first Kentucky Derby futures pool closed, Uncle Mo was sitting at a conspicuous 7-2 even, though he has not raced since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on November 6th. This seems curious in a sport based so much on recent success and trends.

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Is winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile an automatic underlay? 2008 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, Midshipman, was a top-five 19-1 in pool one of the 2009 Kentucky Derby futures wager, and did not even line up on Derby Day. This pattern has repeated itself many times in history, again with the only exception being Street Sense in 2004.

As we enter the second half of the prep racing season, we see many horses who have proven their worth as potential Kentucky Derby contenders (Mucho Macho Man, Soldat, etc.). Yet, the public favorite is a horse that has not run in a major stakes race since last November and the coveted Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Will this year be a repeat of Street Sense in 2004, or just another short-priced miss for a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner in the Kentucky Derby?  Only time will tell, but as of right now the betting public has firmly voiced their opinion.