By Frances J. Karon
Uncle Mo is on the precipice of a singular and unprecedented accomplishment as a trio of his sons — Nyquist, Laoban, and Outwork — are poised to finish the year in three of the top four slots on the first-crop sires’ list. Not This Time, a son of Giant’s Causeway — who stood at Coolmore America/Ashford, the home of Uncle Mo — is the spoiler, sitting at third between No. 2 Laoban and No. 4 Outwork.
Going back at least 20 years, and most likely far beyond that timeframe, no stallion in N.A. has had more than two sons in the top five on the freshman sires’ list. The ones with two apiece are A.P. Indy, Gone West, and Unbridled’s Song, and now in only his first opportunity, Uncle Mo swoops in with three in the top four, and they’ve achieved their rankings by siring quality runners. Case in point: each of the Uncle Mos had a horse win (Nyquist with Vequist) or place (Laoban with Keepmeinmind, Outwork with Outadore) in a Breeders’ Cup race at Keeneland last month, while Uncle Mo himself had Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Golden Pal, one of 22 current SWs for the stallion.
Nyquist, a champion 2yo from Uncle Mo’s first crop, is the leader of this year’s freshmen, and with just 20 days from now until December 31st, he’s uncatchable based on progeny earnings. He leads second-placed Laoban by over $800,000, and he’ll be a second-generation champion first-crop sire, as Uncle Mo wore the crown in 2015, Nyquist’s championship year. Also like Uncle Mo, Nyquist will be represented by a champion 2yo, in the form of Vequist.
What makes Uncle Mo’s dominance even more remarkable is that this generation of stallions represents his first sons that retired to stud: Uncle Mo is only 12 years old and already has three sons delivering the goods on the racetrack. A massive and physically imposing specimen by Indian Charlie, he’d been a $160,000 weanling and a $220,000 yearling, and he won three of three starts at two, including two G1s — the Champagne and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. At three, he won two stakes, the highest class of which was the G2 Kelso Handicap against older horses, was second in the G1 Wood Memorial, and third in the G1 King’s Bishop before his only career off-the-board finish, in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic. He retired to stud in 2012 for an advertised fee of $35,000, which in 2015 dipped to its low of $25,000, and he’ll be doing the business for $175,000 next year.
Nyquist: Unbeaten in five starts highlighted by three G1s — the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, FrontRunner, and Del Mar Futurity — as a 2yo, Nyquist (out of Seeking Gabrielle, by Forestry) went on as a 3yo to win the G2 San Vicente and G1 Florida Derby before taking the honors in the Kentucky Derby. He’d been a $180,000 foal, $230,000 yearling, and a $400,000 2yo, when Dennis O’Neill bought him for Reddam Racing and trainer Doug O’Neill. Nyquist retired to Darley for $40,000, and his first yearlings were the most sought-after among his peers, averaging $234,400 with a median of $220,000. He’s delivered the goods in a big way, with turf G1 winner Gretzky the Great (dam by Bernardini) in Canada and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Vequist (Mineshaft), who also won the G1 Frizette. Vequist will win the Eclipse Award as champion 2yo filly, and Gretzky the Great could win the Sovereign as champion 2yo male. Nyquist is also represented by G1-placed winners in Nasreddine and Lady Lilly. All of Nyquist four stakes horses are out of A.P. Indy-line mares. The sire of 16 winners, he’ll stand for $75,000 next year.
Laoban: Perhaps the biggest surprise of the three top Uncle Mos is Laoban, who was a maiden when he won the G2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga, the only win of his nine-race career. The son of minor stakes-placed Chattertown (Speightstown), and thus from the same female family as multiple G1 winner I’m a Chatterbox, had sold for $40,000 as a weanling and $260,000 as a yearling when bought by GEM Stables. He raced for McCormick Racing and Southern Equine Stable and was trained by Eric Guillot before his retirement to Sequel Stallions in New York, initially covering mares for $7,500. He stepped out of the shadows of the lucrative New York-bred program when his daughter Simply Ravishing (More Than Ready) won the G1 Alcibiades at Keeneland in October. By the end of November, Laoban had his second Graded stakes winner in Keepmeinmind (Victory Gallop), winner of the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill; Keepmeinmind had been second in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity before that. Laoban has three black-type winners plus two stakes-placed runners, including Ava’s Grace who was third in the G2 Adirondack, among his 13 winners from a modest-sized crop of 79 foals. Laoban, a strong, powerful stallion who exceeds 17 hands in height, recently arrived at WinStar Farm in Kentucky, where he has earned a stud fee boost to $25,000 for 2021.
Outwork: Outwork (out of Nonna Mia, by Empire Maker) was Uncle Mo’s first runner and first winner, debuting in a maiden special weight at Keeneland on April 23, 2015, for Uncle Mo’s connections of owner Repole Stable, who had bred him; trainer Todd Pletcher; and jockey John Velazquez, Uncle Mo’s regular rider from the time he debuted a winner at Saratoga in August of 2010 and who was aboard in his resounding Breeders’ Cup Juvenile victory 10 years ago. Outwork, who like Laoban stands well over 17 hands, ran just once as a 2yo, and at three his two wins were led by the G1 Wood Memorial. He was one of three Uncle Mos — Mo Tom being the other — in Nyquist’s Kentucky Derby, his only unplaced effort. He retired to WinStar for $15,000. His G1-placed dam Nonna Mia is a half-sister to G2 winner Cairo Prince, a young Graded stakes-quality sire at Airdrie Stud. Outwork’s first crop features two SWs so far, neither of which is Graded. Outadore (Tactical Cat) won the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint in September before finishing third in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf last month, and he is the early favorite to win the Remington Springboard Mile on December 18th. Outwork’s daughter Samborella sustained a life-ending injury after crossing the wire first in the Seeking the Ante Stakes at Saratoga. He has 16 winners and will remain at $15,000.
Maryland’s Northview Stallion Station’s Uncle Lino, a minor stakes winner by Uncle Mo, is No. 20 on the first-crop list.
Whether these young sires will continue to thrive in future crops as Uncle Mo has done is anybody’s guess, but their early success will translate to lots of breeder and commercial support for other sons of Uncle Mo as they retire to stud in the ensuing years. And what it is indicative of in the bigger picture is the quality Uncle Mo is churning out, and the fact that the only three of his Graded stakes-winning sons with foals of racing age have done so well this early suggests that the quality is being passed on to the next generation.
But don’t expect a wealth of Uncle Mos to dominate the freshman group next year, as his only advertised Graded stakes-winning son with first 2yos of 2021 is Mo Tom, who has stood at Red River Farms in Louisiana since retirement.