All eyes will be on Gulfstream Park on Saturday, March 12, when Uncle Mo is scheduled to make his highly anticipated three year old debut going a mile in the Timely Writer Stakes. Last year’s Juvenile Champ has been considered by many to be the most talented colt of his generation. Besides locking up the Two Year Old Championship with a decisive victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Uncle Mo gave an impressive display of speed and determination while winning the Champagne Stakes. His final time of 1:34.51 was a fifth off of the stakes record, and he tied Seattle Slew for the second fastest running of the Champagne. Unlike Seattle Slew, Uncle Mo fought with rivals every step of the way and showed an extra gear pulling away from an exhausted field.
This year, Uncle Mo’s trainer Todd Pletcher, has been slowly tightening the screws, breezing the bay colt in company with his well-regarded stablemate, Stay Thirsty. The pair recently worked a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.60 at Palm Meadows Training Center. Pletcher has stated that the Kentucky Derby favorite will start only twice before the big dance.
In the last ten years, only two winners of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Macho Uno and Street Sense, were able to win a stakes race as a three year old. The rest were either injured or failed to mature from two to three.
Debate on whether or not Uncle Mo has what it takes to win the Kentucky Derby, or even the Triple Crown, has been swirling around the Two Year Old Champ since he won the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile. Let’s examine Uncle’ Mo’s pedigree for clues to the all-important question.
On the racetrack, Uncle Mo’s sire Indian Charlie won the Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles, but in the 1998 Kentucky Derby, Indian Charlie weakened in the final furlong and finished third behind his stable-mate, Real Quiet. Indian Charlie showed plenty of skill, winning four of five starts, but he was retired after the Kentucky Derby due to injury.
??Unfortunately, In Excess, Indian Charlie’s sire, is prone to getting swift but often fragile sprinter/miler types and Indian Charlie is passing these genes along to his progeny. Six of Indian Charlie’s stakes wining progeny have won at 1 1/8 miles, but only Indian Charlie’s daughter, Fleet Indian, has been successful at 1 ¼ miles. Victorious in the Personal Ensign (G-1) and Delaware Handicap (G-2), Fleet Indian proved that her achievements at the top level of racing was no fluke.
Looking at Uncle Mo’s distaff family, his stakes placed dam Playa Maya was in the money in all six starts with earnings of $81,521. The versatile mare won over dirt, turf and placed over a sloppy track. She was the only foal produced by the Dixieland Band mare Dixie Slippers. Dixie Slippers achieved three career wins as a sprinter. She’s a half sister to Federico Tesio Stakes (G-3) winner Woods of Windsor and two stakes placed sprinters, and that’s about it for blacktype in Uncle Mo’s immediate family.
As a broodmare, Play Maya gave no early indication that she could produce offspring of Uncle Mo’s caliber. Her first foal, Forest Voices (by Forestry) made 24 starts as a claimer in the Midwest. Play Maya’s only other foal to race, Gross Pointe Ann (by Silver Deputy), made only six starts, with one win in a maiden claiming contest. The Lowe’s family number 8-c hasn’t produced a Kentucky Derby winner; however Pine Bluff won the 1992 Preakness and four members of this family have won the Belmont Stakes, the latest being Editor’s Note in 1996.
Arch, Uncle Moe’s damsire, won the 1 1/8 mile Fayette Stakes in 1:53.87 setting a new track record at Keeneland. He also took the 1 ¼ mile Super Derby and earned $480,969 in seven starts. At stud, the son of Kris S. is passing along his stamina. His best progeny are Horse of the Year contender Blame, Canadian Female Turf Champion Arravale, English Champion Les Arcs, South African Champion Sprinter Overreaching and multiple Grade 1 winner Pine Island. Both Blame and Pine Island are successful at 1 ¼ miles.
Arch is a relatively new broodmare sire and can claim only a few stakes winners over dirt, none past 1 1/6 miles; However, his grandson Blue Exit won the Prix Matchem (Fr. Listed) at 2000 meters (about 1 ¼ miles) over turf. Arch’s pedigree and record at stud indicate that his daughters could pass along stamina influences but it is too soon to make a definitive factual statement that Arch will be a stamina-oriented damsire.
Uncle Mo’s second damsire Dixieland Band was the damsire of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile/Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense and five other runners that were successful at 1 ¼ miles. Dixieland Band’s daughters bequeath versatility to their offspring, and often, the sire (sprinter or stamina oriented) is the key to how far the foals will run.
Although the Indian Charlie/Arch “Nick” rating receives an A++, Uncle Mo is the only product of those bloodlines to earn blacktype. Indian Charlie has four starters, two winners from Kris S. mares and going back a generation, In Excess has only one offspring out of a Kris S. mare, which is winless.
Conformation wise, it is difficult to judge Uncle Mo’s conformation by the photos available. Uncle Mo has a high cruising speed, with slightly high knee action. More importantly, he has shown the ability to rate behind a pace setter and won’t back down from a fight.
Uncle Mo’s pedigree appears borderline for getting the Kentucky Derby distance. In recent years, other contenders with borderline pedigrees have proven themselves capable of winning the Kentucky Derby and/or Preakness, only to fall short in the Belmont Stakes. Uncle Mo will have only two starts before the Kentucky Derby. If he doesn’t get enough conditioning from these races, Uncle Mo’s borderline pedigree and lack of recent conditioning could work against him and he may struggle the last 1/8 of a mile of the Kentucky Derby.