Travers Day 2010 will be remembered by most horse racing fans as the day the Jimmy Jerkens trained Afleet Express was able to just nose out Fly Down at the shadow of the wire to win the historic race. Saratoga and the Travers Stakes are staples of the horse racing world, and it’s understandable that this memory would last a lifetime for some fans. However, for this fan it was something entirely different that day that I will always remember. Earlier in the card in race 5, a maiden special weight for two year olds going 6 furlongs, is the race I’ll always remember. Still green to the game this was my first full year of following Saratoga closely, and also my first year following 2 year old racing. The gates opened for the fifth race and one of the most beautiful horses I had ever seen flew to the front of the pack and never looked back. It was poetry in motion to this young race watcher…I had never seen a performance like this one. When the son of Indian Charlie hit the wire he had beaten the field by over 14 lengths! My first two year old horse crush was born…I was in love with a horse named Uncle Mo!
Uncle Mo didn’t stop with that amazing maiden race. He quickly went to Belmont Park and captured the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes while stamping himself as the favorite for the Breeders Cup Juvenile. The stage was set for Uncle Mo to show himself to the entire world, and coincidently I would be there live and in person as I was planning to attend my first ever Breeders Cup that year. He didn’t disappoint in the Juvenile…he stalked the early pace of Riveting Reason and destroyed the field in the stretch winning by over 4 lengths in the end. I had cashed the biggest win ticket of my life on him, and also was sure I had just seen the next Kentucky Derby winner. Again I was green, but also in love. Sadly this would be the only time I’d see Uncle Mo race in person, but looking back at least it was the most important victory of his racing career.
Fresh off an eclipse award Uncle Mo was poised for the Kentucky Derby trail, but an illness caused him to get a late start. After running in and winning the very soft Timely Writer Stakes at Gulfstream Park, it was on to Aqueduct for the Wood Memorial. Sent off as the heavy 1/5 favorite Uncle Mo looked solid early, but hit the wall turning for home and was a well beaten third. The pundits were right…Uncle Mo couldn’t get the distance. That one race made it obvious. Excuses where made about another illness the colt was suffering from, but the writing was on the wall. Uncle Mo entered the Kentucky Derby, but was scratched due to…you guessed it…illness. He returned to the races in the King’s Bishop at 7 furlongs later in the summer, on Travers Day, and ran a winning race but finished second by a nose to the amazing Caleb’s Posse. We saw Uncle Mo race two more times to round out his career. A win at a flat mile in the Kelso Handicap, and then a well beaten tenth in the Breeders Cup Classic going a mile and one quarter…a distance he had no business running.
His success didn’t just end when he left the race track. Uncle Mo is one of the best first year sires we’ve seen in years. His first crop is winning at an alarming rate, and seems to not be stopping anytime soon. Nyquist has been his most successful colt. He’s a perfect 6 for 6 horse who won the Breeders Cup Juvenile as well as the Eclipse Award as two year old horse of the year. He also has three more horses that are currently in our Kentucky Derby Top 20 list in Laoban, Mo Tom, and Outwork. All of these horses have shown a lot of talent, and could become super stars as the year goes along.
Now here lies the biggest dilemma facing horse players this year. Can any of Uncle Mo’s babies outrun the distance limitations that he faced? If they can they will be deadly on the first Saturday in May. If they can’t…they’ll be grossly over bet and an easy bet against, just like he would have been if he would have ran in the Kentucky Derby. To further analyze if his four main contenders can go 10 furlongs lets take a look at the dam side of the pedigree’s for each of them to see if they can get any help on that end.
Nyquist – His dam Seeking Gabrielle won once which was at six furlong, and her sire Forestry competed and won in all sprint races. Not much help for Nyquist in this area.
Laoban – His dam Chattertown was a two time winner, with victories at six furlongs and six and a half furlongs. Her sire Speightstown was very successful on the race track…but all his success came in one turn races. Laoban, like Nyquist, won’t get much help from his dam side.
Mo Tom – Caroni is the dam, and was unplaced in seven lifetime starts. Her sire, Rubiano, was successful at…you guessed it…races at a mile or less. No help for Mo Tom on this side either.
Outwork – Nonna Mia only had two wins with one coming at five and a half furlongs and the other at six and half furlongs. She did run decently in a couple of two turn stakes races, and her sire Empire Maker could definitely go long as he won the Florida Derby, Wood Memorial, and Belmont Stakes. Outwork’s pedigree on the dam side is far and away the best as far as distance goes compared to the previous three we looked at.
Pedigree doesn’t always tell the story as we’ve seen horses outrun their pedigrees in the past. However, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have pedigree on your side. The next five weeks will most likely give us a good indication. Just like their daddy, the last prep race of a mile and one eighth will hint if the distance limitation is alive and well for these colts. I’m not sure what is about the mile and one eighth, but it seems to be that magic distance that starts to give us answers and separate the classic distance horses from the one turn specialist. Watch these last set of preps closely…the key to the Kentucky Derby lies within them.