Baffert: Don’t give up on Uncle Mo just yet

Raise your hand if you have a strong opinion on who will win the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 7.

I sure don’t.

There were a lot of skeptics concerning prohibitive Derby favorite Uncle Mo even before he faded in the stretch at Aqueduct on Saturday and finished third in the Wood Memorial. Now they’re coming out of the woodwork, wondering how there could have been such a fuss made over an Indian Charlie colt whose bloodlines cast a huge shadow over his ability to negotiate the Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles.

At this point, if you like a horse, I wouldn’t let anyone talk you off it. This Derby, as we prepare to watch The Factor run in the Arkansas Derby and Santiva take part in the Blue Grass Stakes on Saturday, appears as wide open as any in recent memory.

But Bob Baffert, who has three legitimate Derby contenders in surprise Santa Anita Derby winner Midnight Interlude, The Factor and Jaycito, cautions those who are ready to jump off the Uncle Mo bandwagon.

“Secretariat lost before the Kentucky Derby,” Baffert said Saturday after his Midnight Interlude rallied in the stretch to post a 13-1 upset in the 74th running of the Santa Anita Derby. “I still think (Uncle Mo’s) a very good horse and he’ll bounce back.”

Baffert will find out more about The Factor on Saturday when he contests 1 1/8 miles for the first time.

“If he runs well, we’ll send him on (to Churchill Downs),” he said. “If he doesn’t run well, we’ll bring him home.”

Midnight Interlude’s owner Arnold Zetcher wasn’t shocked by his colt’s victory despite the fact it was Baffert’s first Santa Anita Derby win with a horse that had just broken his maiden. Baffert’s won a record six Santa Anita Derbies.

“We thought we had a good shot,” Zetcher said. “He’d been training unbelievable, and he’d just won by nine in a race where he could have won by 14.”

At this stage, nothing would surprise me with regard to the Run for the Roses.

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