11/18/2013 12:40PM

Hot Sire: Uncle Mo's first crop in demand


Courtesy Ashford StudUncle Mo

The Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland November breeding stock auctions annually showcase highly anticipated weanlings from first-crop sires, and several from this year’s cohort found favor among buyers, led by Ashford Stud’s Uncle Mo, whose fast start at the November sales echoed his accomplishments on the racetrack.

Fifteen weanlings from Uncle Mo’s first crop sold at the Fasig-Tipton November and Keeneland sales for a total of $1,947,000, and an average of $129,800. Those figures led all Northern Hemisphere first-crop sires of weanlings, ahead of Drosselmeyer’s total of $1,501,000 (from 23 sold) and Gio Ponti’s average of $125,778 (from nine sold). (Darley shuttle stallion Lonhro, a perennial leading sire in Australia, averaged $156,667 from three weanlings sold out of his first Northern Hemisphere crop.)

Three of Uncle Mo’s progeny changed hands during Fasig-Tipton’s Monday evening session Nov. 4, highlighted by a colt out of the Grade 3-winning Alydar mare Lotta Dancing who was bought by Cusack Bloodstock from Hill ‘n’ Dale’s consignment for $250,000.

Two of Uncle Mo’s weanlings broke the $200,000 mark at the Keeneland November sale, both colts. A bay out of the winning Silver Deputy mare Hi Lili sold during Keeneland’s opening session Nov. 5 to Maverick Racing for $220,000, and a colt out of stakes winner Tamweel, by Gulch, went to B. Wayne Hughes’s Spendthrift Farm for $200,000 at the sale’s first Book 2 session Nov. 7. Uncle Mo was represented by four other six-figure weanlings at Keeneland, with another selling for $95,000.

Uncle Mo is one of three stallions on Coolmore Stud’s U.S. roster at Ashford who won the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male, the others being 2009 winner Lookin At Lucky and 2012 champion Shanghai Bobby, who will begin his stud career in 2014. Lookin At Lucky captured his first four career starts, and Shanghai Bobby his first five, yet one can make an argument that Uncle Mo’s performance in his first three starts during the summer and fall of 2010 generated a level of excitement that has not been matched by any juvenile racehorse from the past decade.

A son of Grade 1 winner Indian Charlie, Uncle Mo exploded on the racing scene during the highly competitive Saratoga meet, winning his six-furlong career debut by a widening 14 1/4 lengths and scoring a Beyer Speed Figure of 102 for his final time of 1:09.21. The Mike Repole-owned, Todd Pletcher-trained Uncle Mo evoked memories of his sire over the subsequent months, taking racing observers back to Indian Charlie’s brief but brilliant career on the West Coast during the late 1990s.

Uncle Mo next raced in the one-mile, Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont in early October 2010 and posted another easy win. That was but a prelude to his championship-defining win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs, where the colt laid just off the pace through the backstretch before powering clear to win going away by 4 1/4 lengths over Boys At Tosconova. Uncle Mo scored a Beyer of 108 for his win at the Juvenile’s 1 1/16 miles and seemed to quell many observers’ concerns about his ability to win at a distance. Having not been remotely challenged in his first three starts, Uncle Mo settled in over the holidays as the prohibitive winter-book favorite for the 2011 Kentucky Derby.

Uncle Mo returned as a 3-year-old with a facile win in the listed Timely Writer Stakes at Gulfstream going a one-turn mile and subsequently was sent off as the 1-10 favorite in the 1 1/8-mile, Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. There, his connections’ Triple Crown aspirations began to unravel, as Uncle Mo held the race in command well into the stretch but had no answer in the final sixteenth and tired to finish third.

A gastrointestinal problem was diagnosed, and Uncle Mo was withdrawn from the Kentucky Derby and given a lengthy break before resurfacing at Saratoga in late August. In the seven-furlong King’s Bishop, Uncle Mo showed that he was nearing peak form despite being nailed at the wire by Caleb’s Posse, and he followed up with a dominant three-length win in the one-mile, Grade 2 Kelso at Belmont, receiving a career-high 118 Beyer. In what would be Uncle Mo’s final start, he returned to Churchill Downs to contest the Breeders’ Cup Classic and led after seven furlongs before fading in midstretch to finish 10th.

Despite a disappointing final effort, Uncle Mo retired as undoubtedly one of the most talented North American dirt racehorses of the young century, and as a result, he has been in high demand during his first two seasons at Ashford near Versailles, Ky. He was bred to 211 mares – the fourth-highest amount in North America – according to statistics from The Jockey Club, during his first season in 2012 at a fee of $35,000. This year, the stallion was bred to 129 mares at the same fee.

Uncle Mo’s female family is respectable but far from elite. His dam, Playa Maya, by Arch, won three of six starts and was stakes-placed. The second, third, and fourth generations of his female pedigree feature Peruvian champion miler Eithan, a handful of stakes winners, and little else, although one appealing element is the fact that Uncle Mo offers relatively little inbreeding through his first five generations compared with many of his fellow young stallions (only a 5x4x5 of Northern Dancer, which is hardly unusual).

In Uncle Mo’s case, breeders’ and buyers’ decision-making is based more than anything else on the good old-fashioned “eye test,” relating both to the physical appearance of weanlings on the sale grounds at Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton and to buyers’ personal remembrances of Uncle Mo’s wins in the BC Juvenile and Kelso.

Indian Charlie’s own success as a sire of fast racehorses is undoubtedly a key component in the Uncle Mo package as well. The late Airdrie Stud stallion sired several top-level runners among his 78 stakes winners in a shortened stud career, including two other Eclipse Award winners in addition to Uncle Mo: Indian Blessing and Fleet Indian.

Uncle Mo might have fallen short of being a classic-distance horse, but he certainly followed in his sire’s footsteps by demonstrating an ability to carry high cruising speed at distances up to a mile, and that trait is always in demand.

Uncle Mo will stand the 2014 season at Ashford for a stud fee of $27,500 as the waiting game begins and his first foals mature and make their way through the auction calendar. It remains to be seen how the stallion’s initial crop will fare at the yearling sales next summer and fall, but buyer reception of his weanlings at Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland offers a strong hint.

There is little that excites devotees of the Thoroughbred more than finding the next star, be it on the racetrack or in the breeding shed, and based on early results, Uncle Mo will have every opportunity to make that transition.