NEW YORK --- Mike Repole is a New Yorker through and through. The kid from Queens used to play stickball and schoolyard basketball, and he loved those bus rides to Aqueduct so he could bet on the horses.
He went to college at St. John's and wanted to be the basketball coach. He cheered like crazy for the New York Mets and wanted to be their general manager. He turned his sports management background into a billion-dollar payday as a co-founder of Glaceau, the maker of Vitaminwater and Smartwater. He's the majority investor in Pirate Booty snacks, maker of Pirate's Booty, and the managing partner of New York-based Energy Kitchen, a healthy fast-food chain.
Repole also owns Uncle Mo, the top Kentucky Derby contender and heavy favorite for Saturday's $1 million Wood Memorial at the Big Aqueduct.
The energetic 42-year-old Repole always wanted to own horses.
"It was in my blood at 13 years old," he said Thursday morning outside trainer Todd Pletcher's Belmont Park barn, with Uncle Mo a few yards away in his stall. "I knew I couldn't be a trainer, hotwalker or groom. Or a professional gambler. So I always wanted to be on the investment side of horse racing."
Thanks to his winning touch as a businessman, Repole is making a big splash in the game with Uncle Mo. The 3-year-old bay colt, purchased for $220,000 at the 2009 Keeneland September sale, is unbeaten and unchallenged in four races. Win No. 5 is expected in the 1e-mile Wood against nine less-distinguished rivals.
Uncle Mo won his debut by 141/4 lengths at Saratoga last year, won the Grade 1 Champagne by 43/4 lengths and closed his 2-year-old championship season with a 41/4-length win in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He won his only start this year, in the Timely Writer, by 33/4 lengths at Gulfstream Park on March 12.
"This is a once in a generation horse," Repole said. "And I just happen to be fortunate enough to be the owner. If I didn't own Uncle Mo, he'd be my favorite horse. I am in awe of my own horse."
SANTA ANITA DERBY: Premier Pegasus was knocked out of Saturday's Santa Anita Derby because of a leg injury that will sideline the promising colt through the Triple Crown series.
He was the 8-5 favorite on the morning line in the $1 million prep for May's Kentucky Derby.
Premier Pegasus sustained a hairline fracture in his left front leg and will be out 3 to 4 months, assistant trainer Maria Ayala said.
The colt was galloping on the infield training track in the morning when Ayala thought she saw him stumble slightly. He returned to the barn and appeared to be walking fine. X-rays showed the hairline fracture in the cannon bone of the colt's left front leg. If he is healed in a few months, he will return to racing, she said.
The injury was a blow to owner and trainer Myung Kwon Cho, a 68-year-old South Korea native who was anticipating having his first horse in the Kentucky Derby since 1998.