01/15/2018 9:48AM

Sparkman: Mo to come from Uncle Mo

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Mopotism (No. 4), by Uncle Mo, wins the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.

The headline for a recent stallion advertisement exerted perhaps a very different effect on my brain than the advertiser planned. “The stallion who made the best-ever start at stud” immediately made me think of Uncle Mo instead of the stallion advertised.

With no disrespect intended toward that indeed quite successful stallion, no stallion in my long memory has made a more sensational start at stud than Uncle Mo, perhaps since Tom Rolfe’s first crop hit the racetrack in 1970. In an era where stallion books were a fraction of the current norm, the 24 foals in Tom Rolfe’s first crop included champion 2-year-old Hoist the Flag, champion grass horse Run the Gantlet (both later great sires), Washington D.C. International winner Droll Role, and four other stakes winners, plus Kentucky Derby second Ruffinal.

Had Tom Rolfe continued that phenomenal 25 percent stakes winners-to-foals ratio and 12.5 percent Grade 1-level winners, he would have been the greatest sire who ever lived, but, of course, he didn’t, ending his long career with 50 stakes winners from 665 foals, a 7.5 percent strike rate that earned him enduring respect but nowhere near the status of his contemporaries Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector.

Uncle Mo sired 227 foals of 2013 in his first crop (including Australia), almost 10 times as many as Tom Rolfe all those many years ago, including champion 2-year-old male and Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist (out of Seeking Gabrielle, by Forestry), Grade 1 winners Gomo (Gentle Audrey, by Elusive Quality) and Outwork (Nonna Mia, by Empire Maker), and a remarkable 23 other stakes winners, an 11.5 percent strike rate that immediately elevated him among the world’s best sires.

Inevitably in our digital world with its 140-character attention span, Uncle Mo’s second crop has not quite lived up to that standard, but two more new graded stakes winners over the weekend, along with 12 more stakes winners to date from his second and third crops confirm that Uncle Mo is here to stay among America’s top sires.

Mopotism (Peppy Rafaela, by Bernardini), winner of the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes on dirt, and Ultra Brat (Prof McGonagall, by Storm Cat), winner of the Grade 3 Marshua’s River Stakes on turf, also hint at a welcome versatility in Uncle Mo’s progeny.

Uncle Mo, by Indian Charlie, raced only on dirt, winning all three of his starts at 2, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and the Grade 2 Kelso at 3 in a season severely compromised by a mysterious liver ailment.

Mopotism, who was bred in Kentucky by Frank T. Batten, was purchased as a yearling at Saratoga for $200,000 by Jimmy Crupi, a man who knows a thing or two about what an Uncle Mo should look like, having selected the champion 2-year-old male of 2010 for Repole Stable for $220,000 at the 2009 Keeneland September sale. Crupi’s New Castle Farm sold Mopotism for $300,000 to agent Dennis O’Neill at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale of 2-year-olds in training, and she races for Reddam Racing.

Mopotism is the first foal out of the Bernardini mare Peppy Rafaela, a half-sister to multiple graded stakes-winning sprinter Songster, by Songandaprayer, from a female line that has produced minimal black type since Mopotism’s fifth dam, Elmendorf Farm’s Rare Bouquet, by Prince John, produced Grade 1 winner Slewpy from the first crop of Seattle Slew, another sire whose first crop produced multiple top horses.

Ultra Brat’s female family has been more productive recently. Bred in Kentucky and raced by Alex Campbell, she is half-sister to Grade 3 winner It’s Tea Time, by Dynaformer, out of a winning half-sister to Grade 3 winner Kukulcan, by Cox’s Ridge, and her second dam, Rootentootenwooten, by Diesis, won the Grade 1 Demoiselle. She traces to an even more famous mare, her sixth dam, Boudoir II, dam of Your Host and founder of the great family that includes Graustark, His Majesty, Bowl of Flowers, Gallant Bloom, and many other top horses.

Uncle Mo has added Grade 1 Hollywood Derby winner Mo Town (Grazie Mille, by Bernardini) and Grade 1 Starlet Stakes winner Dream Tree (Afleet Maggi, by Afleet Alex) from his second and third crops to his list of Grade 1 winners, and there is not the slightest doubt that there will be many more to come, especially once the foals from the better mares attracted by his first crop success hit the racetrack.

Dream Tree was one of four juvenile stakes winners to emerge from Uncle Mo’s third crop to reach the races last year, and with another huge full book of mares at his 2018 fee of $125,000, Uncle Mo stands an excellent chance of regaining the magic touch of his first crop.