OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Mo Town was the talk of the town Saturday as the son of Uncle Mo inserted himself into the Kentucky Derby conversation with a decisive victory over nine other promising 2-year-old colts in the 103rd running of the Grade 2, $300,000 Remsen Stakes on Cigar Mile Day at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Co-owned by the Coolmore connections of Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith, who purchased an interest in the son of Uncle Mo after his maiden score last out from trainer and co-owner Tony Dutrow’s Team D Stable, Mo Town earned 10 qualifying points for the 2017 Kentucky Derby.
No Dozing, who entered the Remsen with one point, increased his total to five with the runner-up finish, and 4-5 favorite Takaful, who won a photo for show over Win With Pride, garnered two points. Win With Pride, dispatched at 40-1, earned one mark on the Derby leaderboard.
Mo Town, who overcame the disadvantages of trying both the 1 1/8-mile distance and two turns for the first time – all while coming off a two-month layoff – crossed the wire under Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez in 1:51.58 on a fast track, 2 ½ lengths in front of No Dozing, while Takaful was another 3 ½ lengths behind.
Shadwell Stable’s homebred Takaful, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, was a step slow leaving the gate but quickly shot to the front under Jose Ortiz and had established a lead as large as 4 ½ lengths over the field as they rounded the clubhouse turn. But that advantage had shrunk to a single length by the time the field reached the far turn while Takaful set splits of 23:47 seconds, 48:4, 1:14.02 and 1:38.07 with Mo Town in close pursuit.
The rivals hooked-up in the lane and it was Mo Town who asserted himself at that stage, taking control at the eighth pole and increasing his margin with steady urging from Velazquez, while No Dozing put in a late run past the fading Takaful to finish in second place.
Mo Town, sent off at 4-1, returned $10.40 for a $2 win wager.
“Going back to March, we always felt this was a good horse. Being around him, knowing all we do about how he went into each of his races, I felt strongly that he would run big today. For him to prove this much, I feel great,” said Dutrow, who captured his first Remsen victory. “I wanted the horse fresh and happy going into his 3-year-old year. I didn’t use this horse. I didn’t pressure this horse in getting him ready for today. I feel strongly that we have not seen what this horse is capable of yet.”
After winning his fourth Remsen trophy, Velazquez, who also won in 2010 with To Honor and Serve, 2005 with Bluegrass Cat, 2001 with Saarland, praised the colt.
“He was very good,” he said. “He got carried wide into the first turn and after that I had to do the dirty job with the horse in front. After that, he did everything well. Hopefully, he can come back better as a three-year-old.”
For McLaughlin, who won the 2015 Remsen with Mohaymen and finished second with Frosted the year before, runner-up status was a disappointment.
“The break didn’t help us and it looked like he was pretty keen the first eighth [of a mile] after the break, but he dug in and held on for third,” he said. “It was a big step up from 6 ½ [furlongs] to a mile and an eighth. We’ll regroup and probably head south from here.”
“When my horse broke, he didn’t stumble but he was bit slow today,” said Ortiz. “As soon as he broke, he ran. He wanted to go the first three-sixteenths, the first quarter-mile, until I got him relaxed. Finally, on the backside, I did get him to relax. He tired a little bit but, I mean, he’s a great horse. He came from 6 ½ to a mile and an eighth in a short period. You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Kiaran because he was able to do it.
“He was rank a bit in the beginning and I wish he would’ve relaxed better, but he was coming from 21, 44 [seconds, for the first quarter- and half-mile fractions], so I knew he was going to be a little keen but we get to move forward,” he added. “I think he will get it, he will relax better next time. He just needs some time to learn. He’s a bit green but he’s a runner, for sure.”
You’re to Blame finished fifth, with Tale of Silence, Tellmeafookystory, Hookup, Newman and Lead Astray following to the finish.
Mo Town has now won two of three starts and increased his bankroll to $243,600 with the winner’s share of the purse. His connections envision a bright future with him, and a winter in South Florida is also in his immediate plans.
“He’s going to go Payson [Park Training Center] and he’ll have a very light December; next to nothing. I’ll talk to the [owners] about what they are thinking, but if I owned the whole horse, I’d bring him up here for the Gotham [in March]. I’ll talk to them about that and see how they feel,” Dutrow said.