The victories by Mr. Monomoy (by Palace Malice) and Modernist (Uncle Mo) in the two divisions of the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds racetrack in New Orleans promoted those two colts to the top of the Kentucky Derby point standings for the time being.
While Mr. Monomoy is now atop the list with 52 points and Modernist second with 50, some of the later preps carry 100 points, and the winners of those races will scale the rankings accordingly.
Mr. Monomoy is a colt bred to improve at 3, being by a Belmont Stakes winner and a half-brother to champion 3-year-old filly Monomoy Girl (Tapizar), but Modernist has a pedigree notable for its juvenile success.
As a son of champion 2-year-old colt Uncle Mo and out of a half-sister to champion juvenile filly Sweet Catomine (Storm Cat), Modernist could hardly have done less to fulfill that heritage of precocity last year. From two starts, he didn't win.
The good news is that the colt didn't lack ability. According to comments from trainer Bill Mott after the Risen Star, apparently Modernist lacked something in focus, but the trainer and his staff brought the big colt around, and he won a maiden in his 3-year-old debut, going nine furlongs at Aqueduct in 1:54.24.
In that race, Modernist appeared to rate comfortably on the lead, and in his next start, the Risen Star, the dark bay pressed the pace in second while comfortably holding his position until taking command of the race in the stretch to win by a length in 1:51.28 for the nine furlongs.
With his last two races, Modernist is giving clear indications that, despite the general tendencies of his famous relations, he is showing the profile of improvement typical of a classic colt and is better with distance and experience.
Bred in Kentucky by the Wygod Family LLC, Modernist races for Pam and Martin Wygod, and the scopy dark bay is the third generation of this family bred and raced by the Wygods.
They got into this family in 1987 when they claimed the 4-year-old Flying Paster mare Symbolically for $40,000. A winner six times who earned $163,300, Symbolically was twice second and once third in restricted stakes from 36 starts, and she became one of the foundation mares for the Wygods' breeding operation in California and Kentucky.
At stud, Symbolically was a major success, producing four stakes winners, the first three by the Wygods' home stallion Pirate's Bounty (Hoist the Flag). These included the G1 winner Pirate's Revenge, winner of the G1 Milady at Hollywood Park, as well as the geldings Echo of Yesterday and Caribbean Pirate. The mare's fourth stakes winner was by the leading sire Kris S., and Sweet Life won the Providencia Stakes at 3, then was second in the G1 Beverly Hills Handicap at 4.
Retired to stud and sent to Kentucky as the Wygods put their premium mares in the Bluegrass, Sweet Life went directly to Storm Cat. Her first foal was champion Sweet Catomine, and once the champion's quality was evident, Sweet Life was sent back to Storm Cat subsequently to produce four full siblings: two stakes winners and two unraced. The stakes winners were multiple G1 winner Life is Sweet (Breeders' Cup Distaff) and listed stakes winner Calimonco, who was also G2-placed.
Symbolic Gesture was the 10th foal of her dam and did not race. Ric Waldman, who has worked as a consultant with the Wygods for about 25 years, explained that “Marty was high on Symbolic Gesture because of the ability he saw in her training, and he stays close to his horses in training to try to see which have that ability.”
Sent to stud at 3, Symbolic Gesture produced Modernist at 4 in 2017 as her first foal. Waldman said, “We had looked at the crosses that worked well with this family and decided on Uncle Mo, but we weren't looking for a special breeding ingredient at that time.”
In assessing pedigrees and potential matings, Waldman said, “I'm simply a tool. Marty is hands-on, and we coordinate well, as we do now with Emily being involved, but nothing gets done without Marty's stamp of approval, and if I recommend something, I'd better have a very good line of reasoning that Marty will buy into.”
With the success of this mating in the Risen Star on Saturday, there is every reason to expect that the Wygods will return other members of this family to the champion racehorse and sire and further extend this fabled family's historic influence and longevity.
This is probably the oldest continuous family in the American Stud Book and traces back through the mists of time to the imported English-bred mare Selima, a foal of 1745 by the Godolphin Arabian. Selima was imported to the colonies before the establishment of the General Stud Book in England, but the great bloodline historian, C.M. Prior, discovered the details of her pedigree and sale to Benjamin Tasker of Virginia, where she arrived as a 5-year-old and won an important match as a 7-year-old against four opponents, a single heat over four miles, that cemented her reputation as a high-class racer. Then, as a producer, she was a broodmare of the highest order and founded a line that continues today.
Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is chief of biomechanics for DataTrack International and is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in Central Kentucky. Check out Frank's lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.
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