Derby Threat: Uncle Mo

by Ian Tapp

Few could mount a serious case that Uncle Mo was not one of the most talented 2-year-olds American racing has seen in quite a while. He was impressive at six furlongs, brilliant at a mile, and dominant in the 8 ½-furlong Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) that clinched his Eclipse championship. Detractors will remind us that he's made just three career starts, but his talent is unquestionable.

So where will Uncle Mo go from here? This is a perennial winter dilemma in racing, as star juveniles often go one way or the other. Case in point, here are two such talents from racing history who displayed the same kind of 2-year-old ability as Uncle Mo. In fact, all three were champions at 2, and all won the prestigious one-mile Champagne Stakes (gr. I) in fast time, detailed in the table below.

Click for Video
Finish (final ¼)
Seattle Slew (1976) :232 :46 1:10
1:342 (:242)
Devil's Bag (1983) :23 :461 1:094
1:341 (:242)
Uncle Mo (2010) :222 :454 1:102
1:342 (:24)

Seattle Slew was the first foal from Fair Grounds Oaks winner My Charmer. In the immediate family were a pair of champion 2-year-old fillies of the 1940s, plus the very fast sprinter Mr. Prospector, a young Florida stallion with first crop yearlings at the time. Seattle Slew’s sire was the talented Bold Ruler line stallion Bold Reasoning, winner of the Jersey Derby and Withers, second in the Met Mile, and six-furlong track record-holder at Belmont Park. Seattle Slew was from Bold Reasoning’s first crop, though he sired only three due to his early death. Seattle Slew’s pedigree looked like a miler’s, but perhaps Poker, his distance-oriented broodmare sire, could provide more stamina?

Rarely had a 2-year-old been more hyped than Devil’s Bag, and he deserved it. His undefeated championship season was highlighted by five runaway victories, including a six-length score in the Champagne (gr. I) where he broke Seattle Slew’s stakes record, and a five-length romp in the Laurel Futurity (gr. I) while setting a track record. Pedigree-wise, Devil’s Bag had a lot going for him in 1984. Not only was he a son of Halo—sire of the previous year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Sunny’s Halo—but Devil’s Bag was a full brother to Glorious Song, U.S. champion older mare in 1980. Glorious Song won four grade I races at nine furlongs, was a good second to Spectacular Bid in another, and posted three victories at the 10-furlong Kentucky Derby distance. If the sister could get there, why not Devil’s Bag?

A $220K yearling (see his catalog page), Uncle Mo is the third foal from the stakes-placed Arch (TrueNicks,SRO) mare Playa Maya. Arch, who of course sired Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Blame (TrueNicks,SRO), must have imparted some stamina to Playa Maya, as she won three times at a mile or farther despite her dam being a pure sprinter. Uncle Mo’s closest family member to have won a graded stakes is Woods of Windsor, a Woodman colt who captured the nine-furlong Federico Tesio (gr. III), the local prep for the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) in which Woods of Windsor ran sixth.

Uncle Mo is by Indian Charlie (TrueNicks,SRO), winner of his first four starts including the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), and starting favorite in the 1998 Kentucky Derby, where he finished third to stablemate Real Quiet. Despite a less-than-fashionable pedigree, Indian Charlie has developed into one of Kentucky’s premier stallions (retired at a $10,000 fee, he now commands $70,000). In addition to Uncle Mo, Indian Charlie’s champions are Fleet Indian (2006 older mare) and Indian Blessing (2007 2-year-old filly, 2008 female sprinter).

The cross of In Excess and sons with Kris S. line mares has had outstanding success in limited opportunity, and it rates A++ on TrueNicks. There are four stakes winners on the cross, including two grade I and one grade II, from only 14 starters. Romance Is Diane (by In Excess out of a Kris S. mare) won the Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) at 2 but took a while to find her form at 3, losing five times before winning two stakes at the end of the season. Romance Is Diane’s full brother, Romanceishope, won the nine-furlong Del Mar Derby (gr. II). Past this distance is uncharted territory for the cross. See Uncle Mo's TrueNicks Enhanced report below.

From a pedigree standpoint, Uncle Mo has already outperformed. He’s proven more brilliant than anyone could have expected from looking at his catalog page, and now we wonder if the Kentucky Derby distance is within his scope. Racing pundits had the same questions for Seattle Slew and Devil’s Bag. Slew answered the bell, but Devil’s Bag failed to get even nine furlongs, weakening in the stretch of the Flamingo Stakes (gr. I) to finish off the board as the 3-10 favorite. As it turned out, Devil’s Bag wasn't up to the Derby distance. Is Uncle Mo?

Click here to view the TrueNicks Enhanced report for Uncle Mo.

NEW: Mike Repole, Uncle Mo's owner, has a new blog

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