LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Trainer Todd Pletcher said he's optimistic Kentucky Derby contender Uncle Mo will be able to make a run for the roses. However, The Factor won't be a factor in the Run for the Roses.
Uncle Mo worked five furlongs at muddy Churchill Downs on Tuesday, covering the distance in 1:01.80 seconds under jockey John Velazquez.
Pletcher said Uncle Mo looked "in good form" on the same track where he captured the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last fall. Pletcher and owner Mike Repole have been monitoring Uncle Mo since his third-place finish in the Wood Memorial on April 9.
The horse was diagnosed with a gastrointestinal infection following the race. Pletcher says Uncle Mo has been responding well to treatment.
The news was not as good for The Factor.
Trainer Bob Baffert said Tuesday the 3-year-old colt is still recuperating from throat surgery after finishing seventh in the Arkansas Derby on April 16 and will not run in the first leg of the Triple Crown.
"I just feel like the window is closing on him," Baffert said. "I'd hate to rush him into this thing."
The Factor appeared to be an early Derby favorite after winning both the San Vincente and Rebel Stakes over the winter. But he never fired in the Arkansas Derby, fading badly in the stretch behind winner Archarcharch.
A postrace examination discovered a flipped palate, leading to minor throat surgery. The procedure, combined with The Factor's preference to run from the front, left Baffert wary about his horse handling the Derby distance.
"We want to get him really right and the mile and a quarter has always been in the back of my mind," Baffert said. "He's going to want to go too fast and it's crazy. He's not a true mile and a quarter horse."
Baffert already lost a potential Derby horse in Jaycito, who has a bruised foot. The Hall of Fame trainer will saddle Santa Anita Derby winner Midnight Interlude on May 7. Midnight Interlude worked six strong furlongs at Churchill Downs on Tuesday.
The Factor's problems and the decision to pull J.P. Gusto's out of consideration opened the door for Shackleford and Twinspired to make the Derby field.
The Derby is limited to 20 horses, with spots going to the 20 horses with the most graded stakes earnings.