By Dick Downey
The Downey Profile
Uncle Chuck stalked the leader up the backstretch, pounced entering the far turn and bounded away in the stretch under Luis Saez to easily win the Grade III, $150,000 Los Alamitos Derby.
In a field shortened to four with the scratch of Anneua d'Or, Thousand Words, with blinkers off, figured to be Uncle Chuck's best competition. He was right there at the top of the stretch, but Thousand Words was no match for Uncle Chuck in the lane. The winning margin was four lengths.
The race was timed in 1:47.65 for nine furlongs.
No place or show betting was allowed, and Uncle Chuck paid $2.80 on $2.00 wagers to win as the 2-5 favorite.
Great Power and Uncle Chuck vied into the first turn, and the former had a short lead after a quarter-mile timed in 22.76. Cosmo ran up on the rail to take second with the half gone in 47.15. Heading into the far turn, Uncle Chuck showed a quick turn of foot to confront Great Power while Thouand Words began to surge behind him. Six furlongs went in 1:11.39 with Uncle Chuck a head in front. At he the top of the lane, it could have been anyone's race, but Uncle Chuck put it out of reach at the furlong marker with a two-length lead and increased his advantage to the wire.
The win earned Uncle Chuck, owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, his first 20 Kentucky Derby points. Thousand Words picked up eight. Cosmo, who finished third, wasn't nominated to the Triple Crown. Great Power earned two Derby points for finishing fourth.
The late-developing Uncle Chuck is an up-and-coming trainee of Bob Baffert. He debuted on June 12 at Santa Anita, winning the one-mile maiden special weight race by seven lengths. It was Baffert's fourth straight win of the Los Alamitos Derby and his fifth overall.
The son of Uncle Mo was bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC and is out of the Unbridled's Song mare Forest Music. Uncle Chuck brought $250,000 at the Keeneland September 2018 Yearling Sale.
If all goes well, Uncle Chuck will see another Derby points race and perhaps be in the gate on the first Saturday in September.
Bob Baffert: “We’re just learning more and more about Uncle Chuck. He’s still pretty green, but he’s got gears. (Saez) was excited about him, and I think he’s one of the top riders in the country. He said Uncle Chuck is still learning and has got a lot of improvement in him. The colt was full of himself when he came back. It’s exciting. He’s learning quickly and he has brilliance. I was impressed. I think we just saw something pretty special, and he’s been special from day one. He’s bred to be any kind. At the top of the lane, I thought Thousand Words might get him, but at least that horse ran better."
Luis Saez: “He broke great and I just left him alone. He was doing it easy all the way. When I showed him the whip in the stretch he took off. He’s a very nice colt.’’