Saturday Sires: Uncle Mo

Uncle Mo | Sarah Andrew

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Every now and then, a horse comes along who never seems to set a foot wrong. From record-setting freshman sire to perennial top 10 stallion, Uncle Mo is one of those horses. Additionally, it seems every time the Coolmore America/Ashford Stud sire reaches a new benchmark, he moves the bar just a little–or a lot–higher. The first-ever stakes winner for Repole Stables was a 'TDN Rising Star' on debut himself and has since been represented by 18 'Rising Stars' of his own, including three since May, and sired his 15th Grade I winner last weekend.

“He a big, handsome bay and he has the look of eagles about him,” said Coolmore's Adrian Wallace. “Even if you know nothing about horses, you stand in front of Uncle Mo and you know this is what a good horse looks like. He's so balanced, has that presence, that personality. He's an amazing horse to look at.”

It wasn't all smooth sailing, however. A champion 2-year-old and Breeders' Cup winner, Uncle Mo did have a massive challenge to overcome just to get to the breeding shed. He was sidelined during his 3-year-old season with a serious liver disease that was deemed life-threatening at the time and kept him out of the Classics.

“He was such a dominant juvenile before he got sick his 3-year-old year, but he still came back to win the [GII] Kelso and do it impressively,” said Wallace. “He's always been a popular stallion, as he's always been very high profile and very good-looking. We introduced him at $35,000, he went down a bit in his third and fourth year, like most stallions do, but he didn't have to wait long for his fee to rise and now he's been at $150,000 for several years.”

In keeping with his usual theme of outdoing himself, Uncle Mo hit not one, but two milestones last weekend in the space of two hours. Sabatini became his 50th career graded winner in Woodbine's GIII Selene Stakes, while Kingsbarns became his 15th Grade I winner with his GI Stephen Foster Stakes victory. Before the week was out, Uncle Mo added a repeat black-type winner with Mouffy in the Perfect Sting Stakes on Independence Day. Interestingly, each win was on a different surface: turf, dirt, and all-weather. That ambidexterity is a hallmark of Uncle Mo's sire career.

“He's so versatile. He has the ability to be as effective on dirt as he is on turf,” said Wallace. “There also doesn't seem to be a bias between colts and fillies. They're precocious and they continue on.

“He has the size, the scope, the strength, the look. He's such an outcross for a vast amount of mares. You can breed any type of mare to him.”

TDN Stallions: Uncle Mo from Thoroughbred Daily News on Vimeo.

A stallion has to get the opportunities to have a chance, and Uncle Mo ensured support for years to come when he came blazing out of the gate with Nyquist in his first crop. The bay, one of an eventual mind-boggling 25 black-type winners for Uncle Mo in that initial Northern Hemisphere crop, nabbed three Grade I races at two–including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile–en route to 2-year-old championship honors, then added both the GI Kentucky Derby and GI Florida Derby at three.

“It's great in that his runners can be extra early, but you can also get horses that are Classic types and beyond,” said Wallace. “When breeders come to see him, apart from him being an amazing physical specimen, they see that's what makes him so different, so special. He can get you any type of horse, a champion an all surfaces. The same year [dual Breeders' Cup winner] Golden Pal was winning at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf at Keeneland as an older horse, [GI Belmont Stakes winner] Mo Donegal got a Classic distance on the dirt at three.”

Wallace continued: “Part of his success is that I don't think he has any preferences if you look down his list of leading runners. There's such a smattering of colts, fillies, a Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner, a brilliant sprinter like Yaupon, a horse like Mo Town who won the [GII] Remsen and then the [GI] Hollywood Derby on two different surfaces, Kingsbarns as an older horse, Mo Donegal at 1 1/2 miles.”

The 'mo'-mentum marches on. Uncle Mo is currently sitting at 101 black-type winners worldwide and is possibly picking up steam as he sends his 10th crop to the races this year. Kingsbarns was his second Grade I winner since April, joining repeat GISW Adare Manor, while his elite scorers in 2023 included Arabian Knight, A Mo Reay, and Adare Manor. His sales yearlings consistently sell for top dollar, including five for seven figures last year, but the cherry on top might be what he's bringing to the table as a sire of sires.

His first sons had their initial juvenile runners in 2020, when Uncle Mo was just 12 himself. Remarkably, in an unprecedented event certainly not seen in recent history, if ever, three of the top four leading freshmen sires that year–Nyquist, Laoban, and Outwork–were sons of Uncle Mo. While none has yet unseated Uncle Mo himself, Nyquist in particular has became an excellent stallion, ranking just 10 spots below his sire in the current top 20 leading North American sires by earnings. He matches Uncle Mo with two Grade I winners in the first half of 2024.

Kingsbarns winning last Saturday's Stephen Foster | Renee Torbit/Coady Media

“It was also great to see Kingsbarns win. He'll be another stallion son. Uncle Mo is really a sire of sires. Golden Pal in the Northern Hemisphere had 293 mares his first year [2023] and was very well supported again this year. There Yaupon, Outwork, and more. The great thing about it as well is he's basically a complete outcross, which can't be stated enough.”

Additionally, Uncle Mo has several high-class sons still waiting in the wings, including Yaupon and Modernist with first yearlings this year. Golden Pal and Mo Donegal will have their first weanlings at the sales this fall. Moreover, while it's very early for Uncle Mo as a broodmare sire, his daughters have produced 19 black-type winners to date. Maybe the number itself isn't a huge surprise, as he has a plethora of young daughters just hitting peak producing age, but the quality is stunning. Among the nine graded winners out of his daughters are 2024 GI Kentucky Oaks and GI Acorn Stakes winner Thorpedo Anna (Fast Anna), 2024 GI Arkansas Derby and 2023 GI American Pharoah Stakes victor Muth (Good Magic), and 2023 GI Haskell Stakes winner Geaux Rocket Ride (Candy Ride {Arg}).

“Hopefully that legacy is continuing to be built upon,” said Wallace. “You'd love to see him become champion sire someday. That would be very fitting for a horse that had his race record to being on the top end of the stallion lists for all of his career. He's overachieved in every sense and represents the chance for breeders to get a real Saturday horse and the chance for a breeder to get a stallion. It's very gratifying to see breeders who have supported him get a top-tier stallion or elite broodmare, given his profile and his breeding.”

Does the son of Indian Charlie have any Kryptonite? Like Superman, there is one small thing. Despite his success in North America, he has not reached the elite level in Australia, where he shuttled early in his career. He managed only two black-type winners from four modest crops Down Under and has remained stateside since his last journey there in 2015.

“If you look down the list of stallions who made it in both hemispheres, between Danehill and More Than Ready, the two greatest shuttle stallions, and now Justify, who is having tremendous results on multiple continents, it's extremely difficult to be truly dominant in both hemispheres,” said Wallace. “There's no one reason it didn't work quite as well for Uncle Mo. Maybe it's a mixture of training styles, maybe not mixing well with the same blood, sometimes not the right support, or sometimes the Australian market will view the American dirt market with a big skepticism.”

Lack of the same runaway success in Australia as in the U.S. has had zero impact on Uncle Mo's achievements in North America, nor on his popularity. He is one of the dozen elite six-figure sires in this country and has often covered books above 200 mares. Ashford has spent the last few decades standing top stallions, but Uncle Mo ranks among the best.

“He's right at the top,” mused Wallace. “We've been privileged to stand two Triple Crown winners and other wonderful horses. Of course we've had sires like Giant's Causeway, who was not only born on the farm, but became a champion sire.

Uncle Mo is right up there, and arguably in terms of Grade I winners, the most successful kind of horse. He's a horse of a lifetime, not only as a racehorse but as a stallion, and we're privileged to stand him.”

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