With apologies to Led Zeppelin, the song remains the same for Uncle Mo and Tapit each weekend, it seems. Both stallions are represented by the two leading contenders for the Kentucky Derby, Nyquist for Uncle Mo and Mohaymen for Tapit, and the two undefeated 3-year-olds are scheduled to meet on a crash course before the Derby in the G1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream on April 2. In the meantime, the rock star stallions keep adding to their tally of quality black-type performers.
Yesterday, Uncle Mo got his 11th stakes winner from his first crop now 3 — Tapit had 14 — when Thrilled won the $200,000 Plum Pretty Stakes at Sunland for trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Michael Tabor. A homebred from the Giant’s Causeway mare Excited, who won the G3 Virginia Oaks at 9F on turf for Pletcher and Tabor in 2011, Thrilled is the fourth stakes winner for Uncle Mo from a Storm Cat-line mare — the same cross as Nyquist, who’s out of a Forestry mare.
A day earlier at Oaklawn, Tabor and his partners at Coolmore — where Uncle Mo stands at Ashford Stud — won the G2 Rebel Stakes with Tapit’s Cupid for trainer Bob Baffert, who owns the race this decade. It was Cupid’s first stakes win and puts the colt in the classics picture with Mohaymen for the Gainesway sire, who has exploded in popularity since leading the first-crop sire list in 2008 — the same list Uncle Mo topped last year.
Cupid, a $900,000 Keeneland September yearling, was one of four Tapits in the Rebel field — how about that for an indication of the quality of his spring 3-year-olds? — and the Tapit colt Creator was third behind Cupid. Uncle Mo, likewise, has had stakes races this year with multiple entries as well.
High-class performance creates demand, and there’s been demand for the Tapits and the Uncle Mos at the two 2-year-olds-in-training sales held so far this year at Fasig-Tipton and OBS. The high prices include a colt by Tapit from Bethan, by Giant’s Causeway, who topped the Fasig-Tipton sale at $1.8 million — highest price this year so far — and Uncle Mo’s colt from Setareh, by Sky Classic, who made $1.3 million at OBS, and his colt from the Two Punch mare Five Star Dream, who sold for $1 million at Fasig-Tipton.
When the early Triple Crown nominations came out at the end of January, Uncle Mo topped the list with 19 and Tapit was second with 16. Both stallions had had plenty of 2-year-old winners in 2015 — Tapit had 25 from 109 foals of 2013 and Uncle Mo 28 from 165, according to Blood-Horse — but the real gauge of their quality is apparent in the following numbers provided by Chris Rossi of TimeformUS. Based on individual maiden special weight winners/runners at only the elite venues of Saratoga, Belmont, Keeneland, Gulfstream, Churchill, and Del Mar, Tapit had 17 individual winners from 39 runners, while Uncle Mo had 10 from 33. To digest the impact of this, note that the next highest on the list was Bernardini — who was third with 13 TC noms — with seven winners from 29 runners.
That’s competing and succeeding against the best around at the entry level, and it’s the early indication of class that’s manifesting itself in black-type races now.