March 21, 2023

Uncle Chuck continues Baffert domination of Los Alamitos Derby

Uncle Chuck
Uncle Chuck and jockey Luis Saez win the Los Alamitos Derby © BENOIT PHOTO

The latest Bob Baffert debut winner to join the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail, Uncle Chuck rolled to a four-length victory in Saturday’s $150,000 Los Alamitos Derby (G3). The 2-5 favorite easily accounted for more experienced stablemate Thousand Words to bank 20 points toward the Derby and continue his trainer’s dominance in the race.

Baffert won five editions of its predecessor, the Swaps at old Hollywood Park, and now made it five of the seven renewals in its current form at Los Alamitos, four of them straight. The unique circumstances of the pandemic this year converted it from a post-Triple Crown event into a prep for the rescheduled Kentucky Derby, but such is the depth of the Baffert 3-year-old squad that the Hall of Famer still had the two best in the small field.

The original cast of five was reduced to four by the scratch of Anneau d’Or, who spiked a fever according to Daily Racing Form. Great Power opted to set the pace, tracked by Uncle Chuck through splits of :22.76 and :47.15. The hot favorite drew alongside, headed the early leader at the 6-furlong mark in 1:11.39, and forged clear entering the stretch.

Thousand Words, allowed to settle at the back of the quartet early, followed Uncle Chuck’s move into the lane and briefly suggested that he might offer a bid. But when Uncle Chuck lengthened into his ground-devouring stride, it was all over.

Under Luis Saez, the well-bred son of Uncle Mo showed some greenness as he opened up while finishing 1 1/8 miles in a brisk 1:47.65. That’s within hailing distance of the track record of 1:47.01 established by the late, great Shared Belief in the 2014 running.

With no hope of overtaking Uncle Chuck, and seven lengths clear himself, Flavien Prat took it easy on Thousand Words. The Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) and Robert B. Lewis (G3) winner picked up 8 points, upping his total to 33.

The maiden Cosmo, who’s hit the board just twice from five starts on turf, took third by four lengths from the tiring Great Power. Third was worth 4 points, although Cosmo is not Triple Crown-nominated, and Great Power pocketed 2 points for completing the circuit.

Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman’s Uncle Chuck is now 2-for-2 with earnings of $120,000. The $250,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase didn’t make it to the races until June 12 at Santa Anita, but turned heads promptly with a seven-length triumph over a mile.

The delay of the Derby to the first Saturday in September is giving the late developer a chance at classic glory that would have been impossible in normal conditions. Bettors who took a plunge on Uncle Chuck in Pool 5 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, shortening his odds from a 20-1 morning line to 13-1, will be reassured by the Los Alamitos Derby result.

Bred by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings in Kentucky, Uncle Chuck is the third graded winner, and fourth horse of significance, produced by Grade 2 vixen and multiple Grade 1-placed sprinter Forest Music. The Unbridled’s Song mare’s first foal, Maclean’s Music, was an eye-popping winner of his lone start and subsequently the sire of 2017 Preakness (G1) star Cloud Computing. Later came Grade 3 winners Kentuckian (third in this race in 2015) and Electric Forest.