With the Kentucky Derby (G1) still several weeks away, we are going to spend the time analyzing the pedigree for some of the top contenders.
This week’s subject: Uncle Chuck
With only 1 career start under his belt, Uncle Chuck is a late-blooming 3-year old who benefits by the delayed Kentucky Derby. He was sensational on debut, winning a two-turn mile race at Santa Anita Park in a very respectable time of 1:36.78 and earning a 95 Beyer speed figure. Trainer Bob Baffert is pointing him to Saturday’s Los Alamitos Derby (G3) for his next start.
Kentucky Derby Ranking
Uncle Chuck has zero Kentucky Derby points because he has yet to enter a prep race, but he closed as the 13/1 fourth individual choice in the recently-concluded Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 5. With only two months left to earn enough Kentucky Derby points to make the gate, there are still a lot of unanswered questioned about Uncle Chuck – including his pedigree.
Major career wins: 2010 Champagne Stakes (G1), 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), 2011 Kelso Handicap (G2)
After dominating the Breeders Cup Juvenile, the sky seemed to be the limit for Uncle Mo, but his 3-year-old season did not go as expected. He gave up the lead late in both the 2011 Wood Memorial (G1) and the King’s Bishop (G1), and he scratched out of the Kentucky Derby as the morning line second choice due to health concerns.
He did find the winner’s circle in the 2011 Kelso Handicap (G2), but he was a disappointing 10th in a 12-horse Breeders Cup Classic (G1), where he went off as the 5/2 favorite. Uncle Mo retired to stud due to further health complications, but as a stallion, he has been phenomenal.
Uncle Mo was North America’s leading freshman-crop sire in 2015, led by the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and 2016 Kentucky Derby champion Nyquist. A stallion winning the Kentucky Derby with his first crop is a serious accomplishment – some of the best sires of the past 20 years have still not won the Run for the Roses.
As his sixth set of racing-age foals make their way to the track this year, Uncle Mo has already sired seven different Grade 1 winners at distances ranging from 1 1/16 to 1 1/4 miles. His current set of 3-year-olds include King Guillermo (fourth in the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 90 points), Modernist (sixth with 70), and Pneumatic (17th with 25). He also fathered the three-time Grade 1 winner Bast, one of the early Kentucky Oaks (G1) favorites who retired in the spring due to injury.
Major career wins: 2004 Miss Preakness Stakes (G3), 2005 Honorable Miss Handicap (G2)
With a career record of 18-6-1-5, Forest Music was an accomplished sprinter whose bloodline strongly suggests that routing could have been possible.
Forest Music’s sire, Unbridled’s Song, was the 1995 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion who also fathered six separate Breeders’ Cup champions, including Arrogate and Liam’s Map. Her dam, Defer West, descends from the incredible Mr. Prospector bloodline (check my pedigree analysis of Charlatan for why that is so important).
Forest Music has done well as a broodmare, with all five foals who made it to the track finding the winner’s circle, including graded stakes winners Electric Music and Kentuckian. Perhaps her most notable foal is Maclean’s Music, whose lone career start holds the record for the highest Beyer speed figure ever awarded for a debut runner (114). Injuries forced him into early retirement, but he himself has become a consistent stallion.
Forest Music’s foals have sold for an average price of roughly $530,000, including one who sold for $1.2 million in 2011 (Sonoma County, whose injuries prevented him from ever competing). Uncle Chuck was a $250,000 purchase in 2018 by the trio of Karl Watson, Michael Pegram, and Paul Weitman, who have also owned other Baffert stars including McKinzie, Lookin At Lucky, and Secret Circle.
Uncle Chuck’s next start should answer a lot of questions. He was ultra-impressive in his debut victory, but having only 1 career start at this point is concerning. Even Baffert’s best late bloomers, Arrogate and Justify, began their careers earlier than Uncle Chuck did.
If he wins a points race in his next start, then I might take Uncle Chuck seriously, but until then, he has too many unanswered questions for me to consider him a true Kentucky Derby contender.
Let me know what you think!