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Churchill track drying out fast

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- If you handicapped Friday's six Breeders' Cup races for a fast main track and a firm turf course, you had to adjust your betting strategies on the fly. The conditions early in the afternoon were muddy for the dirt and yielding on the grass, thanks to .66 of an inch of rain that began to fall around 9 a.m. Thursday and didn't end until shortly before midnight.

It was overcast, chilly and windy at Churchill Downs at 2 p.m., post time for the first of 10 races. Twenty minutes later, the clouds began to fade away as brilliant sunshine appeared, and the track began to dry out. At 3:40, about a half-hour before the gates opened for the first Cup race, the Juvenile Sprint, the main track was upgraded to good.

Saturday's forecast is for partly cloudy skies, zero percent chance of rain and a high of 62 degrees. Figure on a fast track and a turf course rated yielding or good.

Pleasant week for Repole

Six months ago, Mike Repole couldn't enjoy his first Kentucky Derby as an owner because of Uncle Mo's undiagnosed liver ailment, which led to his scratch the day before the race. This week, the Nassau County resident has been enjoying himself as Uncle Mo and his stablemate Stay Thirsty prepared for Saturday's $5-million Classic.

Repole led an entourage of family and friends Friday morning on Churchill's muddy backstretch. His mood on the first Friday in November was a 180-degree swing from what it was the first Friday in May, when he and trainer Todd Pletcher announced that Uncle Mo was out of the Derby.

Repole said he wouldn't trade places with any owner.

"The way Mo ran in the Kelso, it looked like he could go two miles, and it didn't look like anybody could catch him," Repole said. "We have a horse that in my opinion is brilliant. And I think Stay Thirsty is doing as well now as he did when he was pointing to the Jim Dandy and the Travers.

"I've never won a Classic. Todd has never won a Classic. I think we have two great chances of winning this race."

Pletcher is going against the grain by bringing Uncle Mo into the 1¼-mile Classic off preps of 7 furlongs and a mile after a 4½-month layoff. He and Repole are hopeful that the 2010 2-year-old champion's remarkable talent will help him handle a distance he never has tried. Pletcher said he's still confident in the charismatic colt.

"The way this horse has trained, if you watch him gallop, he gets into a rhythm," Pletcher said. "He's got a tremendous stride, great rhythm. I think if he can fall into that rhythm and gets comfortable, I think he stays a mile and a quarter.

"There's only one way to find out."

Rain man

Monmouth Park-based Kelly Breen trains Ruler On Ice for George Hall, a 1978 graduate of Chaminade High School, and Hall's wife, Lori. Two of Ruler On Ice's three career wins have been on off tracks, including this year's Belmont Stakes. Breen would have loved it if the Classic had been run on Friday's wet track.

"I ran into Ben Huffman this morning," Breen said Friday. "I joked with him about who I needed to pay off to have the water trucks keep the track just like this."

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