Pedigree notebook: Big mo for Uncle Mo

March 28th, 2023

There’s a lot of pedigree coverage for contenders on the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail, but what about all the other divisions in Thoroughbred racing? This is a space to highlight a wider range of pedigree musings.

Champion and terrific sire Uncle Mo lost a premier Kentucky Derby (G1) contender when his son Arabian Knight was recently sidelined, but he’s just furnished another one in Kingsbarns, the imperious winner of the Louisiana Derby (G2).

Yet Uncle Mo’s big weekend extended to the Kentucky Oaks (G1) preps. The Ashford patriarch factored prominently — in the second generation — in both Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) heroine Southlawn and Sunland Park Oaks scorer Flying Connection. Also, Key of Life, by Uncle Mo’s son Mo Town, captured Saturday’s Purple Martin S. at Oaklawn Park, but we’ll focus on the Oaks aspirants.

Southlawn: Fair Grounds Oaks (G2)
Flying Connection: Sunland Park Oaks

Flying Connection is by Uncle Mo’s champion son Nyquist, and Southlawn is out of Uncle Mo’s Grade 2-placed stakes winner Mo d’Amour. It’s a significant harbinger of Uncle Mo’s long-term influence that he’s already visible as both a sire of sires and as a broodmare sire, and he’s still only 15.

Uncle Mo got off to as fast a start at stud as he did on the racetrack. His first-crop star Nyquist wasn’t merely his successor as a champion two-year-old. Nyquist was an historical rarity who turned the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1)/Kentucky Derby double; and he’s the only one to achieve the feat while unbeaten. Nyquist was nearly responsible for a Sunland double on Sunday, as his son Low Expectations was runner-up in the Sunland Park Derby (G3).

Mo d’Amour, also from Uncle Mo’s first crop, was on the Kentucky Oaks trail herself. The winner of the 2016 Busher S. and third in the Gazelle (G2), she was a creditable fifth of 14 in the Oaks.

Interestingly, both Mo d’Amour and Nyquist are out of Storm Cat-line mares. Mo d’Amour’s dam is by Scat Daddy, and Nyquist’s dam is by Forestry. A further parallel comes from the crosses in their prep-winning offspring.

Nyquist sired Flying Connection from the brilliantly fast Free Flying Soul, a daughter of the Fappiano stallion Quiet American. Trained throughout her career by the late Bruce Headley, Free Flying Soul won four stakes and placed in four graded events, including the Santa Monica (G1) and Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1). If she hadn’t come along during California’s synthetic era, Free Flying Soul arguably would have been a graded winner.

Mo d’Amour was likewise matched with another Fappiano descendant, Pioneerof the Nile, to produce Southlawn. Pioneerof the Nile descends from Fappiano’s Kentucky Derby-winning son Unbridled, via Empire Maker.

Two other recent headliners sired by Uncle Mo offer the mirror image of that pattern: Beholder Mile (G1) victress A Mo Reay and unbeaten Triple Crown nominee Bishops Bay are out of Pioneerof the Nile mares.

Uncle Mo sired two-time Breeders’ Cup star Golden Pal from Lady Shipman, by the Unbridled’s Song stallion Midshipman; current multiple Grade 1-placed sophomore Gulfport from an Unbridled’s Song mare; Outwork, the 2016 Wood Memorial (G1) winner, from an Empire Maker mare; 2018 Apple Blossom H. (G1) winner Unbridled Mo from a mare by Unbridled himself; and 2016 Lecomte (G3) scorer Mo Tom from a mare by Fappiano’s son Rubiano, in a non-exhaustive list.

One of Uncle Mo’s most successful young sons, Laoban, tragically passed away too soon. But he adds to the Fappiano file since his Grade 2 winner Keepmeinmind is out of a mare by Victory Gallop (by Fappiano’s son Cryptoclearance). And Louisiana stallion Mo Tom’s top earner, Wholelottamo, is out of a mare by Fappiano’s son A. P Jet.

On the flip side, Southlawn isn’t the only example of the Fappiano line crossed with Uncle Mo mares. Last year’s Black-Eyed Susan (G2) winner Interstatedaydream is by Classic Empire (by Pioneerof the Nile), and San Felipe (G2) runner-up Geaux Rocket Ride is by Candy Ride (a Cryptoclearance descendant). The Candy Ride connection hasn’t been as much in evidence, so it will be interesting to see if Geaux Rocket Ride can boost it.

Uncle Mo’s rooting interests on the Derby and Oaks scenes transcend this angle and embrace a variety of lines. He’s also the broodmare sire of Instant Coffee (by Bolt d’Oro) and Arctic Arrogance (by Frosted).

I have very high hopes for the Uncle Mo filly Punchbowl (out of a Halo-line mare), who will bring a 2-for-2 mark into the April 7 Ashland (G1). If she punches her ticket to the first Friday in May, Uncle Mo could be going for an Oaks/Derby double with Punchbowl and Kingsbarns — and with his grandchildren too.