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Uncle Mo makes return in Travers preliminary

The real drama Saturday will unfold about 30 minutes before the Travers Stakes.

That's when Uncle Mo returns to the races for the first time since being sidelined with a life-threatening liver disease more than four months ago.

The early Kentucky Derby favorite before his illness, Uncle Mo was made the 9-5 favorite in the $250,000 King's Bishop, a seven-furlong Grade 1 race against seven rivals, among them the highly regarded sprinter Flashpoint.

And even if the Travers at Saratoga Race Course features Preakness winner Shackleford, Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice, Haskell winner Coil and 5-2 favorite Stay Thirsty, it will still be the Uncle Mo show.

"For him to be coming back is amazing," says owner Mike Repole, who owns Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty. "And to think, a short time ago we were not only worried about whether he'd race again, but whether he'd survive."

Uncle Mo's comeback arrives almost a year to the day since his sensational debut, a dazzling 14 1/4 -length romp at the Spa that all but upstaged Afleet Express' win in the Travers a few races later.

None of the drama has been lost on Todd Pletcher, who trains both morning-line favorites for Repole.

"It's pretty rare that you're going to have two 3-year-olds running in races where potentially the $1 million, Grade 1 focal race of the entire meet in some ways is going to be less popular than the one right before it," said Pletcher.

Uncle Mo won his first three races, including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and was voted 2-year-old champion. After winning his first start this year, the bay colt finished an unexpected third in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 9 as the 1-10 favorite.

He was examined by several veterinarians over several weeks before being diagnosed with cholangiohepatitis -- a severe inflammation of the bile passages and adjacent liver, which sporadically causes hepatic failure in horses and ruminants," according to the Merck Veterinary Manual.

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