Uncle Chuck has received plenty of comparisons to Arrogate as a big striding, late developing 3-year-old, but unlike the champion Arrogate, Uncle Chuck will have an opportunity to run in the Kentucky Derby because of its rescheduling this year.
"I really think with his stride, he covers a lot a ground. The ground that he covers reminds me of Arrogate. He handles it well, doesn’t get tired. Uncle Chuck will like the big, long, sweeping turns (of Saratoga) like Arrogate."
Similar to Arrogate, Baffert was in no hurry to get Uncle Chuck started.
"When we bought Uncle Chuck, he was big, tall, lanky, not like a typical Uncle Mo. I told Barry Eisaman, take your time with him, I’m not in a rush. Send him to me when he is ready. We let him grow into himself like Arrogate."
The patience has seemed to work as Uncle Chuck has won his first two starts impressively, defeating stablemate and recent Shared Belief Stakes winner Thousands Words last out in the Los Alamitos Derby.
Baffert may not have wanted to do too much too soon with Uncle Chuck, but his continued improvement has given him confidence.
"I just wanted to take my time with him. It would be like playing a freshman with varsity. I’ve seen a big difference in maturity the last 30 days."
Uncle Chuck will need to show further improvement to compete with Tiz the Law. Baffert knows that challenging the Belmont Stakes winner will be far from easy.
"I’ve been very impressed with (Tiz the Law). They have managed him well and picked the right spots with him. I think he has progressed perfectly. He definitely is the best 3-year-old in the country right now. I’ll get an idea if I can run with him or not. It is going to be exciting, but we’re hoping we are as good as he is, that is why we are going over there."
The stage is set for a premiere East vs. West showdown, and both horses could not be working any better, according to Baffert.
"I was tempted to put blinkers on (Uncle Chuck) until his last work, which was his most professional work. He had to work like that to put him on the plane. I saw Tiz the Law’s work, though, and it was also great, so going to be a good race."
It will be fun to appreciate the "Mid-Summer Derby" as a key prep for this year's Kentucky Derby. We know Tiz the Law is ready for the bright lights, and if Uncle Chuck's tantalizing upside can produce a breakout performance anything close to Arrogate's 2016 smasher, then this has the makings of a must-see matchup.
Despite the loss of Nadal and Charlatan, Baffert will be plenty busy on Derby weekend. If all goes to plan, he will be running Uncle Chuck, Thousand Words and Authentic in the Kentucky Derby, the highly talented Gamine in the Kentucky Oaks and Cezanne in the Pat Day Mile.
|Rank||Silks||Horse / Sire||Rating||Trainer / Jockey||Last Start||Status|
Awesome of Course