Respite Farm, Breeder Of Uncle Mo, Sends Athletic Weanlings To Keeneland November Sale

If you’ve been following the North American bloodstock world in 2020, you’re probably familiar with the handiwork of Dr. Michael Cavey and Dr. Nancy Temple’s Respite Farm.

The Paris, Ky., operation bred champion Uncle Mo, whose quick-starting reputation as a sire of runners has been matched by his quick-starting reputation as a sire of sires. One of those young stallions making noise with his first crop is Grade 2 winner Laoban, whose freshman season was so brilliant, he earned a call-up from New York to WinStar Farm for 2021. Like his sire, Laoban was also a Respite Farm product.

Outside of that family tree, Respite Farm bred and sold Champagne Room, the champion 2-year-old filly and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner of 2016.

Echoes of that success reverberate through the slate of weanlings Respite Farm has to offer at this year’s Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale, through the Denali Stud consignment.

Though Cavey is a commercial breeder, and he sells his entire crop at auction as weanlings, the breeder said he does not breed or raise his young horses through the typical means for a commercial prospect. Instead, he brings them up as though he planned to race them himself. The horses have to end up in the right hands, of course, but the high-level results of the Respite program prove it works.

“I had an agent who was selling horses for us who came to our farm, looked at our young horses, and told us we were making a mistake because we were raising and prepping them like racehorses, not sale horses, and he thought we should change our program,” Cavey said. “We didn’t change our program. We still try to raise racehorses.

“Our philosophy is to hopefully sell sound weanlings,” he continued. “If a pinhooker buys them, hopefully they’ll make money with them, then come back and buy another one. Uncle Mo and Champagne Room are both really good examples. People bought them reasonably as weanlings, they sold them again as yearlings, and then those people sold them as 2-year-olds, and everybody made money. I’m happy about that.”

Champagne Room

The process of raising a racehorse for the sale ring begins with a carefully planned mating.

Cavey takes a great influence from the methods of John Nerud’s Tartan Farms program, going so far as to buy broodmares from Nerud’s dispersal that serve as the pivot points of today’s Respite Farm broodmare band.

From Nerud and others, Cavey said, he learned it’s okay for the two components of the mating to have flaws, as long as the partner’s strengths complement them.

“[Nerud] said he looks at their hip, their hind leg, the strength of their back, the layback to their shoulder, and the quality of their head,” Cavey said. “That’s pretty much the way I look at it. The motor is the hip. The strength is carried through the hip and back. They have to have a nice length of neck to provide balance, and that’s what we look for.”

When it came to breeding Uncle Mo, Cavey said the outcross potential he presented was carefully crafted, and advanced through the Indian Charlie/In Excess sire line. This, in turn, has helped his appeal as a stallion in a marketplace increasingly saturated by a smaller group of bloodlines.

“We bred five generations of his family, and we avoided most of Mr. Prospector, Storm Cat, most of the more popular horses, attempting to improve his pedigree with what we call in the cattle business, hybrid vigor,” Cavey said. “His success now, I think, is based on the fact that he can be crossed back to any of those families, and he’s bringing something to those families that they don’t have.”

Laoban (Uncle Mo) and jockey Jose Ortiz win the Jim Dandy

Nobody knew Uncle Mo or his pedigree like Cavey did when the champion retired to Ashford Stud, so when it came time to plan the mating that would produce Laoban, the breeder knew what he needed to see in a stallion to mesh with the Speightstown mare Chattertown.

“She was very attractive, well-muscled, not overly large,” he said. “She had a good, solid female family. We knew he would put some daylight under her, because he’s a big horse, but not heavy-bodied. He’s a big, athletic horse. We felt Speightstown would cross well with the female family, and it worked. It doesn’t always work, but here, it did.”

Using the philosophy he has developed over decades of cultivation, Cavey shared the thought process behind the matings for two of his standout Keeneland November weanlings, and how the end product matched his expectations.

Hip 943
Dk b. or br. f., Nyquist x Cayman Sunrise, by Petionville
Barn 36 & 37 – Sells Wednesday, Nov. 11
Catalog Page

“We crossed Nyquist to a family we’ve been working with for a few years. It produced a big, good-looking filly with a good way of going, well-balanced. We just like everything about her, and the Nyquists are obviously running.

“Cayman Sunrise was a late-developing mare herself. She was a spectacular-looking animal and had lightning speed, but unfortunately, she got hurt. Her foals that we’ve produced prior to this one, they needed some strength and daylight, and Nyquist brought the strength that we were looking for and put a little more leg under them. Her Bodemeister colt (Empire Power) was a stakes-placed winner at two, and he’s still racing.

“We’re hoping that breeding her to a precocious 2-year-old in Nyquist, who brings some strength and precocity to the pedigree, will produce a precocious 2-year-old filly that then will run on. We were just looking for something to improve the slowness of the maturity, and have her mature a little faster, and get a little more speed into her.

“This filly is very different from the other foals the mare has produced. She’s just stronger. She has a little bit more size, more hip, and more strength to her back.”

Hip 1572
Gr. or ro. f., Liam’s Map x Rooms, by Giant’s Causeway
Barn 5 – Sells Friday, Nov. 13
Catalog Page

“This is Rooms’ first foal, a really well-balanced, big, strong filly. She’s really impressive.

“The mare is by Giant’s Causeway, who is a leading broodmare sire. You just can’t go wrong with a Giant’s Causeway. The mare herself ran fourth by a neck to Champagne Room in a graded stakes race at two. She showed a great deal of ability. She was then trained by Peter Eurton, who trained Champagne Room. There’s really nothing about her I don’t like. She’s just a good quality mare who has a good female family.

“Liam’s Map is a big, stretchy, athletic horse who could really run, and the Giant’s Causeways can be a little compact and small. So, I was looking for something that could put a little more size on her, and her first foal is surprisingly good-sized for a first foal.”

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