His owner waited four years to use a sport moniker meaning all-important “momentum”; Todd Pletcher suggested he use it for this brilliant colt who reminds me of what it may have been like to watch SEATTLE SLEW.
UNCLE MO won the Champagne Stakes in 1:34.51, a display of speed and stamina rarely seen in older horses let alone a two-year-old. Despite running under pressure from the rail during the initial ¼ mile, the son of INDIAN CHARLIE poked his head in front before the first call was recorded. He widened the advantage at every successive ¼ mile to win by 4 ¾ lengths.
While UNCLE MO did not win by his debut margin of 14 ¼, it matters not. I’ve struggled to find the equivalent juvenile performance in my lifetime.
He’s deserving of owner Mike Repole’s special name, one he’d reserved for an exceptional racehorse. The way UNCLE MO runs, and if he can sustain these unusual accomplishments through the end of his career, momentum is an apropos word to describe this developing talent.
I was too young to understand the greatness of SEATTLE SLEW, but after reading a book and watching video of the 1977 Triple Crown winner, the flashy style and sheer speed UNCLE MO demonstrated would be what I imagine that ‘SLEW did to his Champagne field back in 1976.
Here’s a comparison of MO’s and SLEW’s respective Champagne times:
UNCLE MO :22 2/5 :45 4/5 1:10 2/5 1:34 2/5
SEATTLE SLEW :23 2/5 :46 1:10 1:34 2/5
Both colts ran nearly identical fractions for the first ½ mile and ran identical final times (when ‘SLEW ran, there were no times in decimals). UNCLE MO took a breather entering the turn in :23 3/5 after a blazing opening ¼ mile fraction. On the other hand, ‘SLEW created momentum in 22 3/5 after a rather pokey opening salvo . ‘MO appeared to be feeling the effects of his early efforts in the third ¼ mile, slowing to :24 3/5, while ‘SLEW slowed appreciably but still running fast in :24.
What sets these colts apart from a former Juvenile Champion like WAR PASS is the ability to finish much stronger than very good pace horses. UNCLE MO came home in :24, three lengths faster than he’d run his preceding fraction. SEATTLE SLEW continued to slow down, but at a very slow rate, getting his final ¼ mile in :24 2/5. Bottom line, after a championship as a two-year-old SEATTLE SLEW proved as a sophomore and again as an older horse that he was one of the best race horses ever, one of just 11 Triple Crown winners, Champion in each of his three racing seasons, and 1977.
UNCLE MO has done something special winning the Champagne. That effort came off a single, dominant maiden win which was run in fast time while earning a 102 Beyer speed figure (BSF). Daily Racing Form’s Brad Free wrote last Saturday how improbable a win by ‘MO was in the Champagne, considering that triple digit Beyer debut-winning juveniles over the last 10 years had not won graded stakes in their next starts. He cited that only two (LOST IN THE FOG and BRO LO) improved while winning ungraded stakes.
Free was correct when considering UNCLE MO regressed to a 94 BSF in the Champagne. If it were anyone but overmatched MOUNTAIN TOWN, he of the maiden claiming debut win with a paltry 61 BSF, chasing UNCLE MO, I might not be writing this. Already, he’s no LOST IN THE FOG who Free pointed out earned a 100 or more BSF in his first 10 starts.
The fact that UNCLE MO only regressed eight points on the Beyer scale indicates his fortitude is somewhere between once-in-a-lifetime and very good. By comparison one of the two leading older horses of 2010, QUALITY ROAD, ran only an 89 BSF in start #2 after a 101 debut figure. All QUALITY ROAD did in start #3 was win the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G.II). I’d say his career has gone pretty well to this point.
UNCLE MO has a long way to go for his body of work to be anything close to deserving of mention with SEATTLE SLEW. This year there is a possibility that he could exceed ‘SLEW’s juvenile accomplishments in three starts, with two Grade I wins.
I think it’s pretty obvious Mike Repole’s most talented horse yet is off to a compelling start. All the owner needs is to keep ol' UNCLE MO on his side when the big money offers come rolling in (as they probably already have)!