HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - "He was the Derby favorite going in and he's the Derby favorite coming out!"
That's pretty much how trainer Todd Pletcher summed up Uncle Mo's 3-year-old debut, an easy 3 3/4-length victory over a game but overmatched Rattlesnake Bridge in Saturday's inaugural edition of Gulfstream Park's $100,000 Timely Writer.
Making his first start since sewing up the 2-year-old divisional title with a similarly easy one-sided victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Uncle Mo broke a step slow from his inside post and bumped briefly with Gallant Dreams before recovering quickly to control the pace while kept off the rail by jockey John Velazquez. Uncle Mo set slow fractions of 25.53 seconds, 49.58 and 1:13.69 while stalked by Rattlesnake Bridge from the outset.
Once Uncle Mo settled into the stretch the Timely Writer became no contest with Uncle Mo steadily pulling away from his lone challenger, completing his final quarter-mile in a sparkling 22.87 before galloping out strongly into the clubhouse turn.
Rattlesnake Bridge was easily second best in the field of five 3-year-olds, finishing 5 3/4 lengths in front of Gallant Dreams, who was followed in turn by Rocking Out and Schoolyard Cat. Madman Diaries scratched from the Timely Writer earlier in the day.
Uncle Mo, who is owned by Mike Repole, completed the mile in 1:36.56 over a fast track and paid $2.10.
"He didn't break perfectly, maybe a half step slow, but the interior fractions were comfortable for him," said Pletcher. "What I liked best was that he ran the last quarter in 22 and 4 and galloped out huge! You don't see too many horses do that on dirt and he did it with Johnny looking around."
Pletcher said he was glad to get the first race of the season out of the way.
"He got the conditioning we were looking for without having to run a hard race," said Pletcher. "I'm happy we got over that hurdle and now we can move on to the next step."
The next step is expected to be the Grade 1 Wood at Aqueduct on April 9.
"I talked to Mike about the possibility of flip-flopping Uncle Mo with Stay Thirsty in the Wood and keeping him here for the Florida Derby but he's had the Wood on his mind for this horse since the Breeders' Cup," said Pletcher.
Repole is also the owner of Stay Thirsty, who won the final prep for the Wood, the Grade 3 Gotham, one week earlier in New York.
"I would never say never but for now the Wood will be next for Uncle Mo," said Pletcher.