Nominally, this weekends URC stallion spotlight 2yo racing series honors sons of Unbridled’s Song. In practice trainers overwhelmingly went to recently retired Arrogate to advance their cause with 6 of the 14 entrants being by the brilliant almost super horse. This reliance on the unproven stallion highlights part of the problematic legacy of Unbridled’s Song; he was capable of producing fast horses, who were often fragile, and who mostly failed at stud. Aside from Arrogate, who stands for $75,000, the next highest stud fee is from Will Take Charge (who wasn’t used here) at $30,000 who, like Arrogate, won the Travers Stakes. Liam’s Map is next at $20,000 and he was the second most popular Unbridled’s Song son in this race producing three runners. Spotlighted against a highly competitive freshman sire class including budding sensation Constitution and Triple Crown hero American Pharoah, Liam’s Map only has one winner thus far and red flags might already endanger that stud fee. After that, all other sons (Stallion Register lists 40) at stud are standing for under $10,000. Three others made the cut in the URC, Graydar (private), Midshipman ($8500), and Zensational (no longer in USA).
I don’t believe it is hyperbole to say that Unbridled’s Song’s legacy resides on the shoulders of Arrogate who gives him one last chance to pass on his legacy through the sire line. If you’re reduced to one lottery ticket, the big grey isn’t a bad one to hold. At one time he was being compared to Secretariat as one of the ten best horses to ever look through a bridle following a surreal, impossible victory in the Dubai World Cup. Other than perhaps Justify, has there been a horse in recent memory as dominating and equine god-like as Arrogate when he won the G1 Travers, Breeder’s Cup Classic, Pegasus Cup and Dubai World Cup in a row. In the process, Bob Baffert stated: “The greatest horse I’ve ever seen run.” Called a modern-day Man O’War, Baffert sent him to Del Mar (repeatedly) where he delivered a string of lackluster performances which sent him plummeting from top 10 ever status and likely a triple-digit stud fee. No one will ever know what happened to Arrogate during the later stages of his career, but for that four-race stretch very few ever saddled could have beaten him.
It will be a while yet before we see how well Arrogate passes on his proclivity for racing dominance but in the SIM he is off to a quietly strong start. His first class produced 14 stakes winners and 5 graded winners, and remember they are only 3yos so that number is going to grow. He has 76% winners, which again is excellent considering they are only 3yos and his 2yo class is winning at a 37% clip. Arrogate has all the signs of being rated as a top 15 stallion in the SIM and very well might end up a force in the game for years to come. Those aware of his stout rating or fans of his racing dominance have kept his price high, although I consider him something of a value as you can, on the right week, get him for high 600s. URC trainers offered these six takes on Arrogate:
- Imbil Gecko (Smart Strike x A.P. Indy)
- Arrogant Magpie (Deep Impact x Unbridled)
- Blood Gold (Medaglia d’Oro x A.P. Indy)
- Snowbell (Smart Strike x A.P. Indy)
- Solid Gate (Hard Spun x Empire Maker)
- Dania Heaven (Capote x Alydar)
So we see a couple chose to inbreed to Unbridled, three used Indy on the DDS kicker including two using the identical Smart Strike x Indy combo, although each was bred to mares so no collusion here. One mare is an allowance winner and the other a G2 winner so there is an interesting comparative exercise here for those looking to crack the SIM code. All of these pedigrees are loaded for bear and if this is an indication of the type of breeding chances Arrogate is getting then it’s no wonder he is soaring up the SIM ranks. It’s easy to get behind a blazing fast (almost) super horse and odds are the winner of this race comes from this group. In fact, there is only one horse who is single-digit odds in this race who isn’t an Arrogate.
As indicated earlier, Liam’s Map has three representatives in this race. His runners look like this:
- Map to the Burbs (Johannesburg x Hard Spun)
- Prospector Inday (A.P. Indy x Mr. Prospector)
- Walk off Dinger (Street Sense x Indian Charlie)
You can likely guess who the other single-digit odd runner is based on pedigree. Of more interest here to me is that sometimes success can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. While Liam’s Map is getting good mares, aside from Prospector Inday, he isn’t getting the great ones which Arrogate is benefitting from. Liam’s Map is significantly cheaper than Arrogate and he too had an excellent first class with 11.5% stakes winners and 3% graded winners. He fell off since that initial entry into the SIM but I wonder how much his mare quality declined? I really wish the SIM could track AEI.
Our last group is comprised of the three stallions Zensational, Graydar and Midshipman. Let’s see what the URC trainers chose to do with them:
- Midship Waves (Midshipman x Smart Strike x Harlan’s Holiday)
- Middle and Last (Midshipman x Miswakii x Kris S)
- Avoid the Bern (Graydar x Bernardini x Seeking the Gold)
- Rock Hard Gray (Graydar x Rock Hard Ten x Forty Niner)
- Swarm of Bees (Zensational x Malibu Moon x Monsun)
What is fascinating here is that four of the five in this group received great mare backends, better looks than Liam’s Map got. In fact, one of them, Middle and Last, was bred to a G1 winner. Everyone except Swarm of Bees is 15/1 or higher so if you are looking for value here is your zone. Some really slick back-ends in this group and one of the core breeding strategies I often use in the SIM is matching an above-average sire with a knock-out DS/DDS combination and this can pay useful dividends. Zensational overperforms in the SIM versus real life and while he likely will be downgraded at some point, clever breeders have taken advantage of his virtual ability. All these Unbridled’s Song stallions seem to come into the SIM juiced and Zensational was no exception. His stellar first class had 12.9% stakes winners and 2.4% graded winners. Midshipman is where you can see a drop off in SIM quality, for though he had a lot of support in his first season with 119 mares, he produced half as well as others in these group with 6.7% stakes winners and 1.7% graded (2). Graydar had the worst first season with only 4% stakes winners and no graded winners but it is worth noting he rebounded slightly and does have 4 G1 winners in the SIM.
Regardless of your personal feelings on where Arrogate ranks in the history of the American Thoroughbred (and his case is a complex one to be sure), the majority of URC trainers placed their faith and resources in him for this race. As always, the breeding efforts of those involved were top-notch and this race should be highly competitive requiring a large, Arrogate like SP to get into the winner’s circle. I would anticipate several of these 2yos go on to successful careers with the potential that one might be a future star.