LOUISVILLE, Ky., May 5 (UPI) -- With two days to go until the 137th Kentucky Derby, the status of Uncle Mo remained the big unanswered question.
Uncle Mo, undefeated as a 2-year-old and winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last fall at Churchill Downs, came out of his first lifetime defeat in the Wood Memorial last month with a gastro-intestinal infection. He has been treated with antibiotics but owner Mike Repole, trainer Todd Pletcher and a team of veterinarians aren't certain how well he has rebounded.
"When I see him on the track, like I saw him this morning, I say he's doing super, he's doing great, he moves like the best athlete on the track," Repole said Thursday on the Churchill backside.
"But I'm not the expert and we just aren't sure where where this horse is. Is he back to 80 percent of himself? Ninety percent? One hundred percent? We don't know. If this was an 'outside' issue, you probably could be sure of what you're dealing with. But this is an 'internal' thing and they're much harder to tell."
In addition to the pressure to do right by the horse, there is an issue with multiple-race bets that extend from Oaks Day on Friday through Derby Day, including the Oaks-Derby Double. If Uncle Mo's status is not clarified by Friday, bettors might well shy away from those wagers.
Repole said a team of three vets will go over Uncle Mo and make their recommendations to him and Pletcher. He said the trainer will have the final word.
"Probably by the end of the day (Thursday) we'll know what we're going to do," the owner said. "We'll know for sure by the morning. And we won't wait until Saturday to make a decision. We'll say tomorrow, one way or another."
Repole and Pletcher also have Stay Thirsty, winner of the Gotham Stakes but a flop in the Florida Derby, ready to run on Saturday.
Most of the other 19 prospective starters in the Run for the Roses galloped or jogged on the track Thursday morning, including 4-1 morning-line favorite Dialed In.
Owner Robert LaPenta was on hand as Dialed In stood in the starting gate before his gallop. Dialed In will be LaPenta's fifth Derby starter and all have been trained by Nick Zito. So far, the best of the lot was Ice Box, who finished a troubled second to Super Saver last year.
"We really believe this year we have a special horse," said LaPenta. "We've been fortunate to be here in five Derbies in the past 10 years. When I think about it, I get chills. And we've been here with some nice horses. But I think this year we have something special, which puts some added pressure on us."
Zito won the Derby with Strike the Gold in 1991 and Go for Gin in 1994.
Master of Hounds, runner-up in the UAE Derby in Dubai in March, cleared quarantine and jogged on the Churchill Downs track for the first time. Trained by Irish master Aidan O'Brien, Master of Hounds finished sixth in last November's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf under the twin spires in his only previous U.S. appearance.
Three-time Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert, who will saddle Santa Anita Derby winner Midnight Interlude Saturday, said the race looks quite wide open.
"I think there are probably 10 horses that have a really good legitimate chance to win," he said. "Pace is going to be a factor. But at the end of the day, who can get the mile and a quarter? That's what you've got to look for. When you go down there, pedigree-wise, it's a mile and quarter."