LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Uncle Mo was made the early 5-2 favorite Monday in a field of 13 for the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic, where the colt who beat a life-threatening liver disease will try to complete his comeback with a victory.
Uncle Mo and John Velazquez will break from the No. 12 post in Saturday's 1 1-4-mile race at Churchill Downs, where the colt was scratched on the eve of the Kentucky Derby in May because of a mystery ailment that was eventually diagnosed as liver disease.
"It gives Johnny some options going to the first turn," trainer Todd Pletcher said about Uncle Mo's post position. "It's perfect. He's a good horse getting away from the gate."
Uncle Mo will be running against an accomplished field that includes his stablemate Stay Thirsty, filly Havre de Grace, Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice, Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Flat Out and Santa Anita Handicap winner Game On Dude.
Uncle Mo lost 200 pounds while he was sidelined for 4 1-2 months. He returned to the races in August and lost the King's Bishop by a nose before winning the Kelso Handicap by three lengths earlier this month.
"He's doing as well as he can be doing," Pletcher said. "We've come a long way since May."
Pletcher and Mike Repole will have two shots at winning North America's richest race in Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty. Repole owns both colts.
A major question surrounding Uncle Mo is whether he will handle the Classic distance, while Stay Thirsty has had success running 1 1-4 miles with a win in the Travers and a third-place finish in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
"He's done nothing to indicate that he can't get the distance, but until he does it you don't know for sure," Pletcher said about Uncle Mo. "But he's coming into the race well and he's the most talented horse in the field coming into the race."
Havre de Grace drew the No. 10 post and was installed as the 3-1 second choice for the Classic. She is 5-for-6 this year and already has one win against the boys in the Woodward. She's following the path taken by Zenyatta, who beat males in the 2009 Classic and then was edged by a nose in last year's Classic to end her career with a 19-1 record.
"The fillies have run very well," trainer Larry Jones said, citing Rachel Alexandra's win against males in the 2010 Preakness Stakes. "Why not?"
Uncle Mo, Havre de Grace, New Zealand-bred So You Think at 5-1 and Flat Out at 6-1 were the only Classic runners listed at single-digit odds. Five were listed at 30-1, including Ruler On Ice, Ice Box and Prayer for Relief, who drew the No. 1 post for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. He also has 10-1 Game On Dude in his bid to win the Classic for the first time. Chantal Sutherland is aboard Game On Dude, co-owned by retired Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre. She could become the first woman to ride a Classic winner.
At 70, trainer Scooter Dickey has his first Breeders' Cup horse in Flat Out.
"We're in the gate, aren't we, so we're going to run Flat Out," he said, smiling. "He's very sharp right now."
Another female will be looking to share the spotlight Saturday when Goldikova goes for a record fourth consecutive victory in the $2 million Mile. She was made the 7-5 favorite for the turf race after arriving from France over the weekend.
Undefeated Union Rags is the 2-1 favorite in Saturday's $2 million Juvenile for Michael Matz, who trained 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro.
Highlighting Friday's card is the $2 million Ladies' Classic, with Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty the early 2-1 favorite for Baffert.
The 15 races to be run Friday and Saturday are worth $26 million.