Welcome to 2022 Kentucky Derby Prospect Snapshots, where we’ll take a look each week at a recent winner on the Triple Crown trail, usually from the Road to the Kentucky Derby schedule from which the race horses earn points toward qualifying.
This week, we’ll take a closer look at Mo Donegal, winner of the Remsen Stakes on Dec. 4 at Aqueduct to earn 10 points toward qualifying for the 2022 Kentucky Derby. Mo Donegal ranks sixth on the latest Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.
Racing Résumé: Third in his career debut at Belmont Park after he was purchased for $250,000 at the 2020 Keeneland September yearling sale, Mo Donegal improved significantly when stretching out from that initial sprint to 1 1/16 miles at Belmont three weeks later. He rallied from off the pace for win by 1 ½ lengths Oct. 31 in an eye-catching win as the 1.35-1 favorite.
Tested next against stakes competition in the $250,000 Remsen, Mo Donegal again closed from off the pace under Irad Ortiz Jr. and fought gamely in the stretch to prevail by a nose over determined runner-up Zandon. The added distance seems to have benefitted Mo Donegal, and he was able to win the 1 1/8-mile Remsen despite a leisurely early pace.
Speed Figures: Mo Donegal earned a 97 Equibase Speed Figure for his October maiden win and matched that figure with another 97 in the Remsen. He improved his Beyer Speed Figure in the Remsen seven points to an 89 after earning an 82 for his victory in October. Likewise, he improved his Brisnet speed rating slightly from a 92 to an 93 for the Remsen win.
Running Style: Mo Donegal is not a deep closer bereft of speed, but he definitely seems to have established a clear preference for settling off the pace and making one sustained rally as a stalker-closer type. He has been fifth or worse after three-quarters of a mile in his two victories and finished powerfully to pass horses in the stretch and prevail.
Connections: Mo Donegal is owned by the Donegal Racing partnership founded by attorney Jerry Crawford. Donegal has raced Grade 1 winners Paddy O’Prado, Dullahan, and Carrick as well as Keen Ice, best known for upsetting Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers Stakes.
Seven-time Eclipse Award winner and 2021 Racing Hall of Fame inductee Todd Pletcher trains Mo Donegal for the partnership. Pletcher has won the Kentucky Derby twice (Super Saver, 2010; Always Dreaming, 2017) and the Belmont Stakes three times (Rags to Riches, 2007; Palace Malice, 2013; Tapwrit, 2017)
Irad Ortiz Jr., the Eclipse Award winner as outstanding jockey in 2018, 2019, and 2020, is Mo Donegal’s regular rider.
Pedigree Notes: Mo Donegal is by 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and champion 2-year-old male Uncle Mo, who was the leading first-crop sire of 2015, the leading second-crop sire of 2016, and the leading third-crop sire of 2017. Nyquist, from Uncle Mo’s first crop, was an unbeaten champion 2-year-old male who went on to win the 2016 Kentucky Derby. Uncle Mo has proved a versatile sire with 80 stakes winners and 44 group-graded stakes winner through Dec. 6.
Mo Donegal is out of the winning Pulpit mare Callingmissbrown and his grandam (maternal grandmother) is Grade 1 winner Island Sand, by Tabasco Cat. Island Sand ran second in the 2004 Kentucky Oaks and earned $1,182,777 in three seasons on the racetrack.
Derby Potential: The Remsen has not been an especially productive race in recent years as far as producing 2-year-old who went on to have much success on the Triple Crown trail. Thunder Gulch in 1994 went on to win the Kentucky Derby and is the last Remsen winner to prevail in a U.S. classic race. After watching the 2021 Remsen field of seven runners gallop through a leisurely quarter-mile in :25.18 and half-mile in :51.47, I’m admittedly a bit dubious about that changing in 2022.
However, there were several positives. Both winner Mo Donegal and runner-up Zandon finished quite well with a final eighth of a mile in 12.33 seconds according to Equibase, which is excellent for 2-year-olds navigating 1 1/8 miles and the duo was 9 ¾ lengths clear of the third-place finisher. The speed figures also came back strong and Mo Donegal’s connections and pedigree are solid when looking ahead to a 3-year-old campaign. He’ll need to get faster and prove he can beat better horses, but that is a familiar refrain for promising Derby hopefuls late in their 2-year-old season.