The Brock Talk

Friday, November 11, 2011

Uncle Mo Shadow Will Not Cast Over Stay Thirsty Stud Career

In what might be the greatest revenge in the stallion community since the success of Alydar over Affirmed, Stay Thirsty appears destined to do the same to Uncle Mo. The Uncle Mo/Stay Thirsty rivalry on the track does not compare to the battle tested years Affirmed and Alydar went at each other. Alydar and Affirmed (photo right) met five times as 2-year-olds and four more times at age three. Affirmed won seven times including the epic Triple Crown of 1978; and Alydar won two, including their last meeting in the 1978 Travers when he won through the disqualification of Affirmed.

At stud, Alydar was a major success producing Belmont winner Easy Goer and Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Alysheba among his get. He was the leading sire in North America in 1990, sire of 10 champions and his runners earned more than $24 million. Affirmed became known more as a producer of turf runners, with perhaps his best runners being the multiple grass champion filly Flawlessly; and Arlington Million winner The Tin Man. Affirmed had similar numbers as Alydar with 9 champions, but Alydar’s stallion career ended at the peak of his productivity when he mysteriously suffered a shattered leg while in his stall and had to be euthanized.

Stay Thirsty and Uncle Mo met only twice on the track, both in Breeders’ Cup races at Churchill Downs. Last year, Stay Thirsty was fifth to Uncle Mo’s victory in the Juvenile. This year Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty finished 10th and 11th respectively in the Classic. So they really didn’t have much of a rivalry on the track.

But there was a rivalry for recognition between the two, especially since both came from the same shed row of trainer Todd Pletcher and raced for outgoing owner Mike Repole. And no matter what he did, Stay Thirsty seem to ever remain in the shadow of his stable mate Uncle Mo.

Uncle Mo was everybody’s all-everything from the time he broke his maiden by 14-1/2 lengths at Saratoga through his undefeated championship season and being the winter racebook favorite to win the Kentucky Derby. Meanwhile, during his 2-year-old seaso, Stay Thirsty had finished second to Boys At Toscanova in the Hopeful Stakes after breaking also breaking his maiden at Saratoga, but only by five lengths. Stay Thirsty went into the Juvenile as an anonymous 13-to-1 shot and came out as a fifth-place whatchmacallit.

Things looked up for Stay Thirsty (photo left) after winning the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct in early March, but after a seventh-place finish in the Florida Derby and a 12th in the Kentucky Derby, Stay Thirsty was moving ever closer to staying home. A second-place finish to Ruler on Ice in the Belmont Stakes awoke some, but not enough to make Stay Thirsty the favorite in his next start, the grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes. Stay Thirsty won the Jim Dandy impressively by four lengths and went to the Travers as the favorite, but only by one dime to the dollar more popular. Stay Thirsty was 2.5-to-1 in the Jim Dandy and the 2.4-to-1 favorite in the Travers.

As if aware of the slight, Stay Thirsty galloped around the Saratoga oval and won the Travers nearly gate-to-wire and suddenly he was atop the 3-year-old class looking down. In his first test against older horses in the grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup, Stay Thirsty was a good third behind eventual Classic winner Drosselmeyer and Classic favorite Flat Out. He looked primed to be competitive and possibly be among the favorites for the Classic.

But earlier that same day at Belmont, Uncle Mo had turned heads by winning the grade 1 Kelso Mile in only his second race after being sidelined and missing the Triple Crown. And during the weeks leading up to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Uncle Mo again took the spotlight from Stay Thirsty.

Owner Mike Repole decided to run Uncle Mo in the Classic instead of the Dirt Mile and before the Classic, Uncle Mo would go off at 5-to-1 odds compared to Stay Thirsty back in double digits at 11-to-1.

Uncle Mo will have a year to get the jump on Stay Thirsty in the breeding shed, but I doubt it will make much of a difference.

Uncle Mo begins his stallion career as the grandson of In Excess (Ire), one of the top stallions in California before being pensioned in July. Stay Thirsty, who will race at age four according to his Facebook page, will begin his stallion career next year as the grandson of A.P. Indy, one of the top stallions of his generation.

Uncle Mo is by Indian Charlie, whose first runners hit the track in 2002 and who stood last year at Airdrie Stud in Midway, Kentucky for $70,000. On the track, Indian Charlie’s biggest win came in the 1-1/8 mile Santa Anita Derby. As one might expect from his racing career, Indian Charlie has had a difficult time producing any runners that could go to the next level at 1-1/4 miles.

Stay Thirsty is by Bernardini, winner of the Preakness, Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup - two of which are at the classic distance of 1-1/4 miles. After his first crop hit the track this year as 3-year-olds with Stay Thirsty and To Honor and Serve among them, Bernardini’s fee has been raised to $150,000 by Darley Stud in Lexington, Kentucky.

Uncle Mo has the 2-year-old championship but in the end, Stay Thirsty has something much more important to breeders’, a grade 1 win at 10 furlongs (1-1/4 miles). In fact, Uncle Mo never won at 1-1/8 miles, finishing third in the Wood Memorial in his only attempt at that distance. Stay Thirsty won the 9 furlong Jim Dandy and 1-1/4 mile Travers.

Americans are known to breed for speed and Uncle Mo is well armed with pedigree and past performances to produce that in his runners.

But Americans still pay for distance. And Stay Thirsty will be much more likely to produce winners who can compete at the Classic distance. And likely to some day emerge from the Shadow of Uncle Mo and shine as if he was Alydar himself.

No comments: