OZONE PARK, N.Y. -- Trainer Graham Motion said he and owner Dianne Cotter had never discussed the Kentucky Derby when it came to their 3-year-old Toby's Corner. There will be plenty to talk about now after Toby's Corner upset leading Derby contender and heavily favored Uncle Mo in Saturday's $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in arguably the biggest upset in this race's history since Secretariat lost 38 years ago.
Despite having things his own way on the lead for most of the race, Uncle Mo could not accelerate in the final eighth of a mile, giving up the lead first to Arthur's Tale, who then was outfinished by Toby's Corner in the final 50 yards. Toby's Corner won the Wood by a neck over Arthur's Tale, who finished one length ahead of Uncle Mo, the 1-9 favorite, in the field of nine.
The good news for Uncle Mo's connections - including owner Mike Repole, who had more than 100 family and friends in attendance at Aqueduct - is that Secretariat also finished third in the 1973 Wood before sweeping the Triple Crown.
Norman Asbjornson, Isn't He Perfect, Starship Caesar, Son of Posse, Preachintothedevil and Duca completed the order of finish.
The loss left Uncle Mo's connections stunned and threw the Kentucky Derby picture wide open. The 137th Derby will be run May 7 at Churchill Downs.
"I can't say I'm shocked, but I'm disappointed," said Todd Pletcher, the trainer of Uncle Mo, noting that the horse stepped on himself leaving the gate. "I wouldn't use that as an excuse, but after that he was kind of hounded early on. But I thought the fractions were reasonable. It was his first time a mile and an eighth, first time over the Aqueduct surface. Maybe he got a little tired the last part."
"It's horse racing, I'm as depressed now as I am [when I lose] a $25,000 claimer," Repole said.
John Velazquez, the rider of Uncle Mo, said his felt his horse was "a little anxious more than anything else" and "came a little flat down the lane" after setting fractions of 23.49 seconds, 47.98, and 1:12.28 for the opening six furlongs.
Pletcher said the piece of the hoof that Uncle Mo tore off leaving the gate "was the size of a quarter. It's not huge, but it didn't help," Pletcher said.
Toby's Corner, a son of Bellamy Road - who won this race by 17 1/2 lengths in 2005 - wasn't helped by the trip he had. While he was able to save ground under Eddie Castro early on, Toby's Corner got shuffled back to last at the half-mile pole.
Castro kept his cool and maintained his inside position until the quarter pole, when Castro guided Toby's Corner off the rail and into the three path. At the three-sixteenths pole, Norman Asbjornson appeared to cut off Toby's Corner, forcing Castro to come out another path. Right to his outside was Arthur's Tale, who was rallying widest of all in the stretch under Ramon Dominguez. Arthur's Tale made the lead inside the sixteenth pole, but Toby's Corner rebroke and ran him down.
Toby's Corner covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.93 and returned $19.40 as the 8-1 second choice.
"No doubt he had a tough trip. It did cross my mind halfway through the race if he was going to win the race it's going to be an impressive effort because of what he's got to overcome," Motion said. "Certainly makes it that much more impressive."
Motion said that Toby's Corner will go on to the Derby "as long as he's doing fine. It looks like the mile and a quarter won't be a problem, and it's very wide open now."
Pletcher said that he would ship Uncle Mo to Churchill Downs in time to get two works over the track and that how he trains will dictate his Kentucky Derby status.
"It goes without saying if he wins by 10 today, he's going to go in there with quite a bit different morning line than he is now," Pletcher said. "But that doesn't mean we're not going, it doesn't mean we are going to go. We're going to see how he comes out of it, make sure he's physically okay - that's priority one - and make sure he trains accordingly."
The connections of Arthur's Tale were looking ahead to the Belmont Stakes with their horse, though this result could have them take a look at the Derby if they can get in.