The 2020 Freshman Sire Yearbook: Sons Of Uncle Mo Carry On Fast-Starting Tradition

Every freshman sire class has its own story.

In 2019, the narrative centered around how an extremely deep class would stack up against the imposing first book of the first Triple Crown winner in decades, American Pharoah. The year before that, it was a battle of philosophies between Spendthrift Farm sires, with eventual victor Cross Traffic and his champion Jaywalk duking it out against Goldencents‘ broad army of runners.

The story of the 2020 freshman sire class will be remembered for a horse that debuted at stud nearly a decade ago: Uncle Mo.

After Uncle Mo’s own initial crop of runners set records for freshman-sired earnings, his first sons from that crop have carried the momentum into the next generation with aplomb, and in different ways.

Nyquist, who brought home a classic, a Breeders’ Cup win and an Eclipse Award for his sire, did it the conventional way, getting runners at the highest level, as he was expected to do. Laoban did it the unconventional way, getting enough graded stakes winners to merit being moved from New York to Kentucky. Outwork, Uncle Mo’s very first starter and winner, did it with numbers, piling horses into starting gates and winner’s circles.

Of course, sons of Uncle Mo weren’t the only ones that had big debuts in 2020. Here is a look back at all the stallions who made a mark last year, and hopefully set themselves up for long careers at stud.

Highest Progeny Earnings, Most Grade 1 Winners, Highest-Earning Individual Runner: Nyquist
Uncle Mo x Seeking Gabrielle, by Forestry
Standing at Darley America
2021 Fee: $75,000
Progeny Earnings: $2,424,083
Leading Earner: Vequist – $1,235,500

Much like Uncle Mo, champion Nyquist got the job done in a big way with his debut crop of juveniles.

The Darley America resident hit just about every quality benchmark one would like to see with his first runners, chief among them being a Breeders’ Cup score by Vequist in the Juvenile Fillies. That win gave Nyquist an insurmountable lead in the earnings race among freshman sires, and secured Vequist’s spot as the highest-earning freshman-sired runner for 2020.

While Vequist’s Breeders’ Cup victory held the wheel for much her sire’s cumulative success last year, it was anything but a fluke for the filly. She kicked off a giant September for Nyquist, who had the winner and third-place finisher in the G1 Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga, in Vequist and Lady Lilly, respectively. The month ended with Nyquist notching his class-leading second Grade 1 winner when Gretzky the Great took the G1 Summer Stakes at Woodbine, giving the sire wins at the highest level over both dirt and turf.

Nyquist’s success at the top of these lists was more than enough to establish Uncle Mo’s credentials as a current and future sire of sires, but that notion is driven home by the stallions that fill out the podium. In all three categories that Nyquist led by himself, fellow Uncle Mo stallion Laoban finished third or better. They are joined by Outwork, who had the second-highest-earning freshman-sired runner of 2020 in Grade 1-placed stakes winner Outadore.

Honorable Mentions (Progeny Earnings)
– Laoban (Sequel New York to WinStar Farm):
– Not This Time (Taylor Made Stallions):

Honorable Mentions (Grade 1 Winners)
– Laoban (Sequel New York to WinStar Farm): One G1 Winner
– Not This Time (Taylor Made Stallions): One G1 Winner

Honorable Mention (Highest-Earning Individual Runners)
– Outwork (WinStar Farm): Outadore – $430,100
– Laoban (Sequel New York to WinStar Farm): Simply Ravishing – $414,200

Most Winners, Most Progeny Wins: Not This Time
Giant’s Causeway x Miss Macy Sue, by Trippi
Standing at Taylor Made Stallions
2021 Fee: $40,000
2020 Winners: 28
2020 Wins: 34

Not This Time made a big splash in the freshman sire pool when Princess Noor brought $1.35 million at last year’s reconfigured Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. June 2-Year-Olds In Training Sale, and the filly’s Grade 1-winning campaign helped propel her sire to the upper echelon of his class. However, it was the rank-and-file that truly gave the sire his foundation.

Despite being tied for the fourth-most starters among North America’s freshman sires (he had 54, while leader Exaggerator had 69), Not This Time’s 28 winners was nine more than next-closest Outwork and Upstart, each with 19. Similarly, the 34 wins his runners racked up last year was comfortably ahead of the tie for second between Nyquist and Upstart with 21.

Filling out the ranks below Princess Noor were stakes winners Dirty Dangle and Vacay, as well as Grade 3-placed Hopeful Princess and Time Goes On.

Honorable Mentions – Winners
– Outwork (WinStar Farm): 19 winners
– Upstart (Airdrie Stud): 19 winners

Honorable Mentions – Progeny Wins
– Nyquist (Darley America): 21 wins
– Upstart (Airdrie Stud): 21 wins

Most Graded Stakes Winners: Nyquist and Laoban

Nyquist
Uncle Mo x Seeking Gabrielle, by Forestry
Standing at Darley America
2021 Fee: $75,000
Graded Winners: Vequist and Gretzky the Great

Laoban
Uncle Mo x Chattertown, by Speightstown
Standing at WinStar Farm (formerly at Sequel New York)
2021 Fee: $25,000
Graded Winners: Simply Ravishing and Keepmeinmind

Again, Uncle Mo’s hoofprints can be found all over the top of the freshman sire ranks.

We’ve already touched off on Nyquist’s high-end achievements, spearheaded by Grade 1 winners Vequist and Gretzky the Great. Both horses could realistically end the year as champions in their respective divisions: Vequist with the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old female, and Gretzky the Great with the Sovereign Award as Canada’s champion 2-year-old male.

Laoban earned his spot on the podium with Simply Ravishing, winner of the Grade 1 Alcibiades Stakes, and with Keepmeinmind in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes.

Honorable Mentions (All With One Graded Stakes Winner):
– Not This Time (Taylor Made Stallions)
Frosted (Darley America)
Brody’s Cause (Spendthrift Farm)
Hit It a Bomb (Spendthrift Farm)

Value Play: Upstart
Flatter x Party Silks, by Touch Fold
Standing at Airdrie Stud
2021 Stud Fee: $10,000

Airdrie Stud traditionally hasn’t let the allure of a first-crop stallion cloud its judgment when it comes to setting the stud fee for their inaugural season. That philosophy rewarded a lot of breeders with Upstart, who entered stud in 2017 with an advertised fee of $10,000.

That started in the sale ring, where Upstart’s first yearlings averaged $61,898 in 2019. That’s a healthy return on investment, but for those who like to swing for the fences, Upstart had 14 yearlings bring $100,000, led by a colt who brought $510,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale.

Upstart’s 2-year-olds performed respectably as well. Even through the uncertainty of the 2020 juvenile auction calendar, his first juveniles averaged $104,400 from 25 sold, headed up by a $600,000 colt at the OBS March sale.

Upstart continued to reward his investors once his first foals hit the racetrack, tying for the second-most winners and wins in his class. Many young sires pick up bulk numbers like that by scattering maiden winners around the map, but Upstart made a splash on the highest level with multiple Grade 1-placed Reinvestment Risk, who competed in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Elsewhere, the stallion was represented by Upstriker, who just missed Grade 1 black type when he finished fourth in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland after a five-length first-out score at Ellis Park. Also in that race was fifth-place Founder, who won on debut in Saratoga.

From a relatively low entry price, Upstart has proven he can get a horse into the winner’s circle just about anywhere. The stallion himself only got better as he got older, so that bodes well for his runners as they enter deeper water.

Regional Standout: Laoban
Uncle Mo x Chattertown, by Speightstown
Standing at WinStar Farm (formerly at Sequel New York)
2021 Fee: $25,000

There was only going to be one answer here. Laoban’s rapid ascent to one of the top freshman sires in his class earned him a ticket south from Sequel New York to WinStar Farm for the upcoming breeding season.

The son of Uncle Mo’s ability to move up his mares was apparent as early as last year’s Saratoga meet, when Simply Ravishing won the P. G. Johnson Stakes and Ava’s Grace finished third in the G2 Adirondack Stakes.

Laoban’s unforgettable fall season was highlighted by a showcase weekend at Keeneland, in which Simply Ravishing took the G1 Alcibiades Stakes and Keepmeinmind finished second in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity. The latter went on to win the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs a month later.

He tied for the most graded stakes winners in his freshman class, and he finished third or better by progeny earnings, Grade 1 winners, and highest-earning individual runner. He’ll have three more New York-sired crops before we see runners on the track that were conceived by breeders who knew what they’ve really got with Laoban, but a start like his offers nothing but blue sky for his future at stud, regardless of where he’s standing.

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