Pedigree Insights: Mo Town Demonstrates Uncle Mo’s Turf Potential

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Mo Town winning the Hollywood Derby | Benoit

By Andrew Caulfield

The Coolmore partners, together with other owners of Galileo (Ire) broodmares, are on a worldwide quest to find stallions capable of bringing out the best in these highly valuable daughters of the world’s most successful sire. The collaboration with Japan’s Deep Impact (Jpn) has supplied one of Europe’s most promising 2-year-olds, in the G1 Racing Post Trophy winner Saxon Warrior. Then there’s Kentucky’s War Front, who sired this year’s Group 1 winners Roly Poly and U S Navy Flag, plus the G1-placed Fleet Review, from Galileo mares.

It is also worth mentioning that the other stallions with 2017 black-type winners out of daughters of Galileo include three reverse-shuttlers from Australia–Choisir (Aus), Exceed And Excel (Aus) and Fastnet Rock (Aus).

But now the possibility exists that a potentially smart turf stallion has been hiding in plain sight at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud near Versailles. As Bill Finley pointed out in yesterday’s Week In Review, Uncle Mo has notched up seven wins on turf since Aug. 1, with the latest being Mo Town‘s victory in Saturday’s GI Hollywood Derby at Del Mar. He added that Thoro-Graph figures credit Uncle Mo with a healthy 16% success rate with his turf runners. Although this falls short of Uncle Mo’s 21% on dirt, he explained that larger fields in turf races result in most stallions having a lower percentage on turf than on dirt.

I looked at Uncle Mo’s potential as a turf sire in an article I wrote last February for the Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder:

“The gulf between dirt and turf has become so deep,” I wrote, “that it is tempting for Europeans to dismiss Uncle Mo as a specialist dirt horse with limited chances of succeeding in Europe. But is there any justification for such a knee-jerk reaction, with hardly any racecourse evidence in Europe?

“There are a few straws to be grasped at. His sire Indian Charlie was given very few opportunities to prove himself in Europe, but his son Western Reserve–out of a smart Oasis Dream mare–showed very useful form on turf and all-weather in England last year.

“Don’t forget, either, that Uncle Mo’s grandsire In Excess (Ire) was a European import to the U.S. In Excess arrived in the States in 1990, having won three of his six starts at up to seven furlongs. He continued in fine form on turf as a 3-year-old, winning a pair of Group 3’s over a mile and an eighth. Bearing in mind that his dam Kantado and broodmare sire Saulingo had raced almost exclusively over five furlongs, his stamina came as a bit of a surprise. Even more surprising was In Excess’s successful transition to dirt racing as a 4-year-old. He became a quadruple G1 winner from a mile to a mile and a quarter (over which he set a track record in the Suburban H.). This ability to shine on dirt could perhaps be attributed to the champion American 2-year-old Warfare, sire of the dam of [In Excess’s sire] Siberian Express.

“There is also some encouragement to be drawn from the records in Europe of the first three stallions in the bottom half of Uncle Mo’s pedigree. Despite having raced exclusively on dirt, Arch made his mark via the likes of Les Arcs (G1 Diamond Jubilee and G1 July Cup), Pomology, Arch Swing, Arch Rebel, Montgomery’s Arch and Waterway Run. Similarly, Arch’s sire Kris S.–another dirt horse–did very well with his sons Kris Kin (G1 Derby S.), Dr Fong (G1 St James’s Palace S.) and Lucky Story.

“Dixieland Band, who gained all eight of his wins on dirt, also had a pleasing record with his runners in Europe. He enjoyed Group 1 success with Drum Taps, Egyptband and Menhoubah and also sired several Group-winning European 2-year-olds.

“In the circumstances, we shouldn’t be too surprised that several members of Uncle Mo’s first crop have already earned black-type on turf. His daughter Thrilled failed by only a nose to win the GIII Miss Grillo S.; his son Uncle Brennie won the Sunday Silence S.; his daughter Mokat failed by only half a length to win the GIII Jimmy Durante S.; and Little Mo was a close third in a well-contested Kitten’s Joy S.

“Of course there can be a considerable difference between turf courses in Europe and America, where races are usually transferred to dirt when the ground comes up soft. That said, there is enough encouragement in Uncle Mo’s pedigree to suggest that he could sire smart turf performers from European mares–given the chance.”

In the nearly two years since I wrote that article, Auntie Joy has won the GIII Regret S. on turf, while Mokat has taken the GII San Clemente H. However, it is Mo Town’s transformation into a GI-winning turf performer that is going to force breeders to take a fresh look at Uncle Mo.

Mo Town’s pedigree shouts dirt rather than turf. His dam Grazie Mille is a twice-raced winner by Bernardini, who proved himself a champion on dirt. I think it is fair to say that Sheikh Mohammed’s bold policy of sending quite a few of Bernardini’s progeny to race on turf in Europe ultimately failed to pay off.

The Hollywood Derby winner’s second dam Molto Vita is by Carson City, a stallion whose 15-race career was spent entirely on dirt. It was therefore no wonder that Molto Vita was another dirt specialist, never tackling turf in any of her 28 appearances. Something of a late-bloomer, Molto Vita was good enough to win the GIII Thoroughbred Club of America S. over six furlongs as a 4-year-old and to be GI-placed in the Humana Distaff H. and Ballerina S. the following year.

Molto Vita is herself a daughter of Princess Polonia. As her name might indicate, Princess Polonia was a daughter of Danzig, but this proved no help to her in her four starts on grass. She managed just one third place, but it was a different story on the main track, on which she compiled career figures of 40-8-6-6, with her best win coming in the GIII Sixty Sails H. over a mile and an eighth.

With a female line like this–and with a champion dirt performer as his sire–Mo Town seemed destined for a career on the main track. The ‘TDN Rising Star’ initially more than lived up to expectations in his two juvenile starts, notably taking the GII Remsen S. over a mile and an eighth. Unfortunately, his Triple Crown aspirations quickly evaporated, leaving his connections to come up with Plan B.

One thing’s for sure–there will be more Bernardini mares heading in Uncle Mo’s direction. This cross has seven foals of racing age, of which four have started. In addition to Mo Town, they include that very useful filly Mopotism, who once failed by only a head to land the GII Summertime Oaks.

It mustn’t be forgotten that Bernardini’s eldest daughters are still only nine years old and thus unlikely to have more than three foals of racing age. Although Mo Town is their only GI winner so far, they have made an encouraging start, producing a total of six graded winners in the U.S. and Australia. Another is Catholic Boy (More Than Ready), a good fourth in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

More and more success looks sure to come the way of Bernardini’s daughters as their number of representatives increases. Indeed, it would come as no surprise were Bernardini to become an important sire of broodmares. He is, after all, a son of A.P. Indy, a champion broodmare sire who was the son of another champion broodmare sire in Seattle Slew.

To return to Uncle Mo, he too must one day have champion sire aspirations, having sired three GI winners, including Kentucky Derby hero Nyquist, in a first crop sired at $35,000. Mo Town comes from a much smaller second crop and Uncle Mo’s 2-year-olds were sired at $27,500. His fee slipped a bit lower in his fourth year, to $25,000, but yearlings from this crop have averaged more than $225,000, with $700,000 being paid for colts out of mares by A.P. Indy’s sons Bernardini and Mineshaft. This surely bodes well for his next two crops, sired at fees of $75,000 and $150,000.

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