07/10/2015 3:29PM

Uncle Mo, Twirling Candy stand out entering summer meets

Barbara D. Livingston
Uncle Mo, who capped his own unbeaten 2-year-old season with a win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, is among the leading freshman sires of 2015 to date.

Uncle Mo and Twirling Candy were quick out of the gate as juveniles, stamping themselves as stars of the sport with debut wins on the East Coast and West Coast, respectively.

Fittingly, both have established themselves as freshman sires to watch, with several runners from their first crops looking like standouts as 2-year-old racing kicks into high gear with the opening of the Del Mar summer meet on Thursday and the Saratoga meet on July 24.

Through last Wednesday, runners from the first crop by Uncle Mo, who is based at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Versailles, Ky., had bankrolled $186,289, while progeny of Twirling Candy, who stands at Lane’s End in Versailles, had earned $155,670. Uncle Mo and Twirling Candy are the leading freshman sires in North America by progeny earnings, well ahead of third-ranked Archarcharch, who stands at Spendthrift Farm in Lexington, Ky., with $95,018 in progeny earnings.

Progeny of Uncle Mo and Twirling Candy also share the year’s highest overall 2-year-old Beyer Speed Figure, as Nyquist (by Uncle Mo) defeated Annie’s Candy (Twirling Candy) by a head in a June 5 maiden special weight race at Santa Anita. The two colts, who finished 7 1/2 lengths ahead of the third-place finisher, were each assigned a 90. Nyquist is eyeing the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes on Aug. 8 at Del Mar, and both colts are early nominees to the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity.

Nyquist is one of four winners from 11 starters through Wednesday for Uncle Mo, who is the sire of 164 juveniles in his first crop. Twirling Candy, who had 91 foals in his first crop, is represented by three winners from 13 starters.

Uncle Mo turned in a dazzling 2-year-old campaign in 2010, romping by 14 1/4 lengths in his debut at Saratoga, winning the Grade 1 Champagne by 4 3/4 lengths, and winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by 4 1/4 lengths to secure the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. An illness caused the son of Indian Charlie to miss the following year’s Triple Crown series, but he did win the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap and was multiple Grade 1-
placed that season. In all, he won 5 of 8 starts, earning $1,606,000 for owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher.

“Uncle Mo was exceptional at 2 – as good a 2-year-old as we have seen in over a decade – so he has every right to sire good 2-year-olds,” said Dermot Ryan, manager of Ashford, where Uncle Mo entered stud in 2012. “He was very well supported in his first year, so he has quality and quantity on his side, and if his progeny retain even a fraction of the ability he had, they will be in good shape.”

Uncle Mo’s first starter was a winner, as Outwork, a Repole homebred trained by Pletcher, won an April 23 maiden special weight race at Keeneland. Pletcher also trains Uncle Vinny, a Starlight Racing color-bearer who won his debut by 4 1/2 lengths May 21 at Belmont before finishing sixth in the Tremont Stakes.

On the West Coast, Uncle Mo is represented by Nyquist and Gomo, both trained by Doug O’Neill for J. Paul Reddam. Gomo finished third in her debut at Santa Anita, then returned three weeks later to wire a maiden special weight race on turf by 5 1/4 lengths.

Waiting in the wings for Uncle Mo is Conquest Superstar, a $725,000 purchase by Conquest Stables at the Ocala Breeders Sales Co.’s March sale of 2-year-olds in training. The colt is breezing regularly at Keeneland, with a sharp work from the gate July 1.

Twirling Candy won his only start as a juvenile, posting a three-quarter-length score in a maiden special weight race Nov. 14, 2009, at Hollywood Park. The son of Candy Ride would show his versatility over the following two seasons, winning the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes and Grade 2 Strub Stakes on dirt, the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby on turf, and the Grade 2 Californian Stakes on a synthetic surface. He won or placed in three other stakes and retired with 7 wins from 11 starts for earnings of $944,900.

Twirling Candy raced for a partnership that included breeders Sid and Jenny Craig’s Craig Family Trust, William S. Farish of Lane’s End, and Marty Wygod. He entered stud at Lane’s End in 2012 and has emerged as a commercial presence with physically impressive 2-year-olds this season. He first made a splash with the Barretts February sale-topper when Conquest Stables went to $400,000 for a colt now named Conquest Neighpalm. He followed up with a pair of high-ticket offerings at OBS March, as L.E.B. purchased a $630,000 filly named Uptown Twirl and Alex and JoAnn Lieblong purchased a colt for $500,000 now named Play Big. From 18 juveniles sold through the end of June, encompassing all the major sales, Twirling Candy’s average price is $186,000.

“[His foals] were and they are exceptional individuals,” Farish said. “You see that often in stallions, and you always hope for the best, but I think they have matured remarkably to do as well as they’ve done in the 2-year-old sales. They’re quick and obviously did well showing. They’re excellent-looking horses.”

Twirling Candy is represented by three maiden special weight debut winners through July 8, as Queen of Silence won May 25 at Gulfstream Park for Alexandra Racing Stable and trainer Antonio Sano; high-ticket sale filly Uptown Twirl won June 18 at Santa Anita for Hronis Racing and John Sadler; and Twirling Cinnamon won June 19
at Churchill Downs for Steve Landers Racing and Brad Cox. Queen of Silence returned to finish seventh in the Cassidy Stakes at Gulfstream.

Annie’s Candy finished second in his first two starts. Meanwhile, Play Big has breezed once, with a bullet move at Fair Hill.

Uncle Mo and Twirling Candy will have ample chances to further boost their stock this summer. In addition to carding maiden events that will attract well-bred juveniles, Saratoga and Del Mar host a full slate of historic stakes events for 2-year-olds. Saratoga offers the Grade 3 Sanford Stakes on July 25, the Grade 2 Saratoga Special on Aug. 16, and the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes on Sept. 7, with a corresponding series for fillies – the Grade 3 Schuylerville on July 24, the Grade 2 Adirondack on Aug. 15, and the Grade 1 Spinaway on Sept. 5.

Del Mar will run the Grade 2 Best Pal on Aug. 8, the Grade 2 Sorrento for fillies on Aug. 12, the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante on Sept. 5, and the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity – the race in which Triple Crown winner American Pharoah won his maiden last year – on Sept. 7.