By Andrew Caulfield
The story goes that when the great Frankel arrived at Banstead Manor Stud towards the end of 2012, one of the stud’s other top stallions, the champion 2-year-old and sprinter Oasis Dream, was so affronted by the media attention lavished on the newcomer that he sulked for a couple of days. So how must Uncle Mo feel now that his rival stallions at Ashford feature not just one Triple Crown winner in American Pharoah, but two, thanks to the recent arrival of Justify?
Fortunately, Uncle Mo is making sure that he isn’t going to be overshadowed by his younger rivals. He was represented by his seventh graded stakes winner of 2018 last Saturday, when the 2-year-old Forty Under won the GIII Pilgrim S. over Belmont’s turf course. Forty Under was one of three recent black-type juvenile winners for Uncle Mo, following Galilean (Barretts Juvenile S.) and Monkeys Uncle (Selima S.).
Uncle Mo’s services for 2019 have been priced at $125,000–the same as this year–but it is important to remember that all of his racing age progeny, from his first four crops, were sired at fees of $35,000 or less. Indeed his recent 2-year-old stakes winners were sired at $25,000.
Happily, his results haven’t been those of a middle-market stallion. From around 550 foals of racing age, he has been represented by 20 North American graded stakes winners and by another 19 which have been placed at graded level. Ten of those 19 also rank among Uncle Mo’s total of 22 North American listed race winners (with two others winning overseas).
In assessing these figures, allowance has to be made for the fact that 159 of those 550 foals are 2-year-olds of 2018, which amounts to 29% of the total. The burst of interest in Uncle Mo’s 2015 services was no doubt stimulated by some of the prices paid for his first crop at the 2014 yearling sales and the 2015 breeze-ups, with colts selling for $725,000 and $600,000 early in 2015.
As only 31 of the 159 2-year-olds have so far had the chance to race, this crop distorts the statistics to a considerable extent. Perhaps a truer picture of Uncle Mo’s prowess as a sire is given by looking only at his first three crops, which have all now had every chance to prove their worth. Nineteen of his 20 graded winners come with the 390 foals in these three crops, which equates to a very creditable 4.9%. Add in these three crops’ 20 North American listed winners and you have 39 black-type winners–a very neat 10%.
Of course it could be argued that Uncle Mo’s current 2-year-olds should be taken into account, as he was an unbeaten 2-year-old champion and sired another unbeaten 2-year-old champion–Nyquist–in his first crop. However, he is a tall son of the very big Indian Charlie and by no means all of his progeny are ready to shine at two. Forty Under’s recent Pilgrim S. success makes him the sixth 2-year-old graded winner by Uncle Mo, which means that 14 of his graded winners didn’t score at that level at two. I could also add that Uncle Mo’s seven graded winners this year include three 5-year olds from his terrifically successful first crop, with those tough mares Ultra Brat and Unbridled Mo among them.
There are several elements in Uncle Mo’s pedigree which suggest he should be an effective sire of European turf horses, given the chance, but that chance has largely not been forthcoming. His most successful representative in Britain has been the useful 3-year-old Corrosive, who has won twice on turf and twice on all-weather tracks. I guess that Uncle Mo’s appeal as a potential sire of turf horses hasn’t been helped by his failure to shine so far with his inexpensively produced Australian crops. However, turf is proving a worthwhile option for some of his American progeny, with 30% of their 2018 earnings coming on the surface. Mo Town, Ultra Brat, Mokat and now Forty Under have won graded stakes on turf.
Forty Under’s trainer Jeremiah Englehart commented that “when we put him on the turf, it was a night and day difference,” so it seems unlikely that the colt will be returning to the main track any time soon. The career of his broodmare sire Black Tie Affair went in the opposite direction. Out of the first three in each of his two starts on turf, Black Tie Affair steadily developed into a leading dirt performer and he proved so effective as a 5-year-old, when he landed the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic and six other graded stakes, that he was named champion older male and Horse of the Year.
Black Tie Affair proved less effective as a stallion, though he was responsible for the Grade I dirt winners Evening Attire and Formal Gold, and he ended up in Virginia. His main legacy has been via his daughter Starlight Dreams, who produced the admirable Mastercraftsman. This champion colt is having a great year, with the Group 1 turf winners Alpha Centauri and A Raving Beauty heading a strong international team.
Forty Under’s dam Argent Affair, who was bred in Virginia, earned over $150,000, with four of her five wins coming in dirt sprints. Her record as a juvenile was two wins and a second from three starts, which explains why her son is proving more precocious than some of the Uncle Mos.