05/12/2017 11:20AM

Conquest Mo Money top grad of Conquest Stables dispersal

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Conquest Mo Money is expected to start in the Preakness Stakes next weekend.

The dispersal of Ernie Semersky and Dory Newell’s Conquest Stables at the most recent round of Keeneland mixed sales offered an imposing slate of horses with high-level back class or strong potential.

In the eyes of most buyers, Conquest Mo Money offered neither.

At the time, the Uncle Mo colt was an unraced 2-year-old with lingering issues that had him on a stop-and-start training schedule as he entered the Lane’s End consignment for the Keeneland November breeding stock sale. He went through the ring without fanfare, selling to Tom McKenna’s Judge Lanier Racing for $8,500 – the eighth-lowest price of the 89 horses sold as racing prospects in the dispersal.

Roughly six months later, Conquest Mo Money is arguably the most successful graduate of the Conquest dispersal, with multiple stakes wins and a Grade 1 placing under his belt. He could remove any doubt of that status with a memorable effort in the Preakness Stakes.

“Everybody asked me how I was lucky enough to get the horse, and it was pure luck – that’s all there was to it,” McKenna said. “I didn’t think I’d be able to touch an Uncle Mo, totally out of my price range.”

Conquest Stables built a brand with its unmistakable tangerine-and-teal silks and its roster of horses with the word “Conquest” in their names. The names and colors became so synonymous with each other that it took some adjustment to seeing the Conquest horses run for different connections around the country after the sale.

:: Conquest Stables dispersal horses

Fifty-three of the 89 racing-age prospects have raced since the Keeneland November sale, winning a combined 28 races through Tuesday. A handful of the fillies were retired immediately to breeding careers, while some of the unraced horses are training toward their debuts for new connections. Six buyers spurned the “Conquest” label and renamed their unraced prospects.

Aside from the ownership’s branding efforts, the Conquest horses shared the experience of being selected at auction and trained by Mark Casse, who now has nine of the former Conquest horses on his roster for various clients.

The most successful Conquest alum under Casse’s watch is Conquest Panthera, a Kitten’s Joy gelding who has run third in the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile and Grade 3 Canadian Turf Stakes after selling to Gary Barber for $100,000.

“He’s a horse that we were high on from the start,” Casse said. “He was one of Ernie’s favorites.

“He got hurt in his second start when he ran against American Pharoah out in California,” the trainer added. “He had a hind ankle injury that kept flaring up on him, and we got to run him one time. He was coming off a long layoff and ran really well. My thought was he had a lot of talent, he just needed more racing. I told Gary Barber that, and he bought him.”

Casse, between buying horses as agent and having horses sent to his barn after the fact, emerged as the most active participant from the Conquest dispersal. However, McKenna was the dispersal’s most active individual buyer, taking home six horses for a combined $139,500. All but one have raced, three have won, and Conquest Mo Money’s earnings of $508,900 have guaranteed that McKenna made a profitable trip from his New Mexico base to the sale.

“Anybody would be a fool not to be attracted to it,” McKenna said about the dispersal. “There’s very few people that step out there and throw that kind of money at yearlings that I’ve seen in my lifetime. It was just such a tremendous pool of talent there that it was obvious it was going to be one dynamic sale.”

While Conquest Mo Money is the most talked-about and highest-earning Conquest dispersal graduate, the only horse in the draft to have won a graded stakes race since the auction is Conquest Enforcer. The 4-year-old Into Mischief colt won the Grade 2 Mathis Brothers Mile at Santa Anita in his first start for the partnership of Loooch Racing Stables, Imaginary Stables, and Raquel Ritchie.

Ron Paolucci of Loooch Racing Stables secured three horses out of the dispersal, topped by Conquest Enforcer at $785,000. He bought through bloodstock agent Zach Madden, who said they bid on four or five of the dispersal horses.

“He’s a magnificent-looking horse,” Madden said about Conquest Enforcer. “It just felt like he had so much ability, and he was only 3. He had a lot of upside. A turf miler or sprinter doesn’t really appeal to everybody, so I thought he might be a little less than what he ended up costing, but of course, late on a Tuesday night at Keeneland, things always get a little bit interesting.”

Madden said Conquest Enforcer’s form wavered through the winter and spring due to a quarter crack, but the colt was on track to continue his run as a dual-surface threat on the Belmont Stakes undercard, pointing toward either the Grade 3 Jaipur Invitational on turf or the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on dirt.