By Andrew Caulfield
While it is always a notable achievement for a stallion to take the title of leading freshman sire, it mustn’t be forgotten that this title doesn’t always confer a one-way ticket to long-term success.
The title holders since 2001 are something of a mixed bag, and for every Distorted Humor, Tiznow, Street Cry, Tapit and Scat Daddy, there is a Valid Expectations, Stravinsky, Posse, Offlee Wild, Henrythenavigator or Dunkirk.
I am not for a moment suggesting that there is any doubt about which group 2015’s winner, Uncle Mo, is destined to join. He has proved sensational and currently ranks third on the general sires’ list, behind Tapit and Curlin, with as many as 17 members of his first crop enjoying black-type success this year.
But even a young stallion as talented as Uncle Mo may not find it easy to maintain his impetus in a market which regularly sees support for unproven stallions ebb and flow, with the emphasis generally being on ebb.
The Jockey Club credits Uncle Mo with having covered 211 mares in his first season in 2012, when his fee was $35,000. But by his second season, with his fee static at $35,000, demand fell considerably, to 129 mares. Reducing his fee to $27,500 helped redress the balance a little, with 166 mares visiting him in 2014. Then, after his first yearlings had averaged $111,663 and sold for up to $550,000, Uncle Mo was back in heavy demand in 2015, when 221 mares headed his way at a fee of $25,000. But that was nothing compared to this year, when his near-total domination of the 2015 first-crop sires’ competition earned him 253 mares at a fee of $75,000. No wonder his price has been doubled for next year, putting him on the same mark as Curlin and Medaglia d’Oro.
Uncle Mo’s statistical summary credits him with 165 first-crop foals, of which 73 raced at two. Twenty-eight of them won, with as many as seven becoming black-type winners, and Nyquist, Gomo and Uncle Vinny provided him with his first graded successes.
So what are the figures for his smaller second crop, with little over a month of the year remaining? So far 38 of the 96 foals have started and 13 have won. As quite a few of these 13 have done their winning over the last two months, they are likely to be joined by more winners before the end of the year.
As yet, only one of Uncle Mo’s second-crop juveniles has enjoyed black-type success. Fortunately, that one black-type winner is Mo Town. This $200,000 yearling justified being designated a ‘TDN Rising Star’ following his seven-length victory over a mile at Belmont in September by winning the GII Remsen S. by 2 1/2 lengths from Union Rags’ talented son No Dozing.
Takaful, another ‘TDN Rising Star’, was a further 3 1/2 lengths back in third, so there is good reason for thinking that this year’s Remsen is well up to standard–and that standard is normally very high. Last year’s winner, Mohaymen, finished fourth behind Nyquist in the GI Kentucky Derby, having earlier landed further Grade II wins in the Holy Bull S. and the Fountain of Youth. The last 12 winners of the Remsen include six colts–Honor Code, Overanalyze, To Honor And Serve, Court Vision, Nobiz Like Shobiz and Bluegrass Cat–which went on to become Grade I winners.
Some of the runners-up have also shone, recent examples being Frosted, Cairo Prince, Normandy Invasion and Mucho Macho Man. It is therefore very reasonable to have high expectations of the principals in the Remsen’s latest edition.
Mo Town has already shown he is very much at home over a mile and an eighth and the style of his Aqueduct victory suggests that a mile and a quarter should hold no fears for him in a little over five months’ time. This is good to know, as his pedigree provides less confidence that he will be suited by the Kentucky Derby distance.
The bare facts of Uncle Mo’s career are that he finished only third as an extremely short-priced favorite for the GI Wood Memorial on his only appearance over a mile and an eighth and that he weakened to finish 10th of 12 in the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic, on his only start over a mile and a quarter. Of course the picture was clouded by health issues which kept him off the Triple Crown trail, but it sticks in the memory that it was over seven furlongs and a mile that he shone on his return to action.
Of course, Nyquist won over a mile and a quarter, and so did Mo Don’t No when he won the Best Of Ohio Endurance S. last month. There have also been graded stakes successes over a mile and an eighth for Auntie Joy, Laoban and Outwork, so Uncle Mo is often passing on the type of stamina implied by his pedigree–he is by a Kentucky Derby third out of a mare by Super Derby winner Arch.
Mo Town is out of Grazie Mille, a winning daughter of Bernardini. This son of A.P. Indy owed his title of champion 3-year-old colt partly to his mile-and-a-quarter victories in the GI Travers S. and theGI Jockey Club Gold Cup. It is still extremely early days for Bernardini as a broodmare sire–his eldest daughters are still only eight–but they already have five black-type winners to their credit, headed by Mo Town and the GIII Delaware Oaks winner Dark Nile.
The possible weak link in Mo Town’s stamina is Molto Vita, his second dam. Molto Vita proved herself to be a typical daughter of the speedy Carson City by winning the GIII Thoroughbred Club of America S. over six furlongs as a 4-year-old and by being Grade I-placed over seven. Needless to say, many Kentucky Derby winners have fast Mr. Prospector blood in their pedigrees and Carson City himself cropped up as the broodmare sire of Barbaro. It is well worth adding that Carson City’s daughters have an exceptional record with Bernardini. Twelve of them have produced 16 foals of racing age, of which 14 have started (88%), 12 have won (75%) and five of them have become black-type winners–an enviable 31%.
Those five black-type winners comprise the multiple Grade I winner Cavorting, the GI Frizette S. winner A. Z. Warrior, the GII Indiana Derby winner Wilburn, the GIII Palm Beach S. winner Gala Award and the graded-placed La Appassionata. There’s another potential black-type winner among the 16 in the juvenile filly and ‘TDN Rising Star’ Cherry Lodge, who was third in the GI Spinaway S. and second in the GIII Matron S.
Mo Town’s third dam Princess Polonia, a Grade III winner over a mile and an eighth, was bred to the same Danzig-Sir Ivor cross as GI Belmont S. winner Danzig Connection (and the top European sprinter Green Desert).
If the time comes for Mo Town to become a stallion, it probably won’t do him any harm that his fifth dam is My Sister Kate. She was a talented sister to a spectacular Native Dancer colt called Raise A Native, whose male line has supplied so many winners of the Kentucky Derby.