Monday, March 14, 2016

Keeping up his momentum

By Frances J. Karon

Last season's leading North American first-crop sire (as listed on The Blood-Horse site) Uncle Mo continues to dominate the sophomore sire class. He closed out 2015 with seven black-type stakes winners, led by future Darley stallion Nyquist -- who like Uncle Mo won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and was voted Eclipse champion two-year-old male -- and already in 2016 the young sire has added three new black-type winners to his tally, for 10 first-crop black-type winners (four of them Graded) through March 13th.

Impressive? Extremely. But where do these numbers rate Uncle Mo historically?

Take Uncle Mo's seven juvenile stakes winners. From stallions with first two-year-olds between 2001-2015, two first-season sires got eight juvenile black-type stakes winners apiece: Stravinsky in 2003, and Van Nistelrooy (who was not the leading first-crop sire, but ranked fourth by progeny earnings) in 2007. Johannesburg (second his year, 2006) and Posse (first in 2007) had seven each; no other top-10 sire in that timeframe has had more than six. The common thread to these horses bar Posse is that they stood at the home of Uncle Mo, Coolmore's Ashford Stud in Kentucky. Ashford denizens to sit atop the year-end freshman sire list from 1999 onward are Johannesburg's son Scat Daddy (led the 2011 list), Henrythenavigator (2012), Dunkirk (2013), and of course Uncle Mo (2015).

Heading the freshman sire list at the end of the two-year-old season is not always a harbinger for lasting success, but it often is. Distorted Humor (on the 2002 list), Tiznow (2005), Street Cry (2006), Tapit (2008), Congrats (2010), and Scat Daddy were all No. 1s, and they each proved to be the real deal. Other sires to figure among the top five freshman sires of their year include Awesome Again, Johannesburg, Harlan's Holiday, Hard Spun, Pioneerof the Nile, Super Saver, Candy Ride, Bernardini, Giant's Causeway (fourth on the North American freshman sires' list despite having initially stood in Ireland), Medaglia d'Oro, War Front, Speightstown, and Kitten's Joy.

Early indications are that Uncle Mo, whose stud fee was raised from $25,000 -- it was $35,000 when the first crop were conceived -- to $75,000 this season, is following the lead of the elite sires mentioned above. In the mold of his sire Indian Charlie, Uncle Mo, at close to 17 hands tall, is a big, scopey horse whose progeny don't physically appear like they will be left behind by later maturers. His juvenile stakes winners Nyquist and Mo Tom have already won Graded stakes races at three, and the law of averages suggests that more stakes winners will emerge from his long list of stakes-placed horses, such as Graded-placed runners Laoban, Mokat, Outwork (second in the Grade 2 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 12th), Shaken, Thrilled, Uncle Lino, and Uncle Walter.

Uncle Mo at Ashford in February, 2016.

I compiled first-crop totals for 61 stallions that stand or stood in North America and who had first foals no earlier than 1991. It's unlikely that any of their predecessors would have had significantly stronger starts, because stallions bred smaller books of mares in those days. And while I feel that I've covered a lot of bases in my research, I don't necessarily present this as a definitive list.

The black-type winners summed up below are limited to first-crop progeny foaled on Northern Hemisphere time, and in addition to Uncle Mo, Munnings -- whose oldest runners are four -- is likely to further improve his standing. It's possible, too, that another young sire -- perhaps WinStar's Super Saver (currently with eight stakes winners, seven of them Graded, from foals of 2012) -- will jump up the ladder with some big horses. But the totals for now:

1.   Hard Spun (foals of 2009; stands at Darley): 17 first-crop black-type winners
2.   Medaglia d'Oro (2006; Darley): 16
3.   Johannesburg (2004; stood at Ashford, subsequently exported to Japan): 15
      Speightstown (2006; WinStar): 15
5.   Afleet Alex (2007; Gainesway): 14
      Giant's Causeway (2002; Ashford): 14
      Tapit (2006; Gainesway): 14
8.   Street Cry (2004; stood at Darley, died in 2014): 13
9.   A.P. Indy (1994; Lane's End): 12
      Distorted Humor (2000; WinStar): 12
11. Elusive Quality (2000; Darley): 11
      Forest Wildcat (1998; stood at Brookdale, died in 2008): 11
      Fusaichi Pegasus (2002; Ashford): 11
      War Front (2008; Claiborne): 11
15. Empire Maker (2005; Gainesway): 10
      More Than Ready (2002; WinStar): 10
      Munnings (2012; Ashford): 10
      Red Ransom (1992; Vinery): 10
      Street Sense (2009; Darley): 10
      Uncle Mo (2013; Ashford): 10

Hard Spun, sire of 17 first-crop stakes winners, at Darley in 2013.

Seven of these stallions occupy spots 1-8 on the general sires list in 2016. (Bernardini, who has nine first-crop stakes winners, is the top-eight sire missing above.) Uncle Mo is at number seven; Hard Spun, who after Uncle Mo has the fewest crops of racing age among the leaders, is eighth.

It's important to take into account that Uncle Mo has achieved his double-digit numbers really quickly. Hard Spun, for instance, had seven stakes winners to his credit at this same point of the season when his oldest progeny were three. But even in the unlikely event that Uncle Mo doesn't get another black-type winner from his 2013 foal crop, he's already keeping some pretty good company, and his market popularity is at an all-time high, with his first $1,000,000 sales horse, a two-year-old colt out of Five Star Dream, sold to Stonestreet Stables and M.V. Magnier at the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale two weeks ago.


By the way, a glance at foreign-based stallions reveals some other horses to sire remarkable first crops: Shamardal (at Darley in England; foals of 2006) had 17 black-type winners; Deep Impact (at Shadai Stallion Station in Japan; 2008), had 16; Dubawi (at Darley in England; 2007) and Montjeu (stood at Coolmore in Ireland, died in 2012; 2002), 15; and Galileo (at Coolmore in Ireland; 2003), 13.

Bonus: See a young Uncle Mo here.

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