Saturday Sires: Arrogate

Arrogate and trainer Bob Baffert the morning after the 2016 Travers
Sarah Andrew

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The much-missed Arrogate continues to add 'Saturday afternoon horses' to his tally with his final crop. Seize the Grey captured Saturday's GI Preakness S., giving Arrogate a second Classic winner in just three crops. 

A Kentucky Oaks winner in his first crop. A Belmont and Travers winner in his second. A Preakness winner in his third. Three additional Grade I winners, two of them at age two.

Like a streaking star, Arrogate's racing career blazed brilliantly–leaving all who witnessed it in awe–and now his all-too-brief stud career is doing the same.

“It's what you expect of brilliant horses and brilliant mares,” said Garrett O'Rourke, general manager of Juddmonte Farms USA, the organization that both campaigned Arrogate and stood him at stud. “If they don't produce horses somewhat like themselves, you'd be disappointed and somewhat surprised. You can't take anything for granted with horses, but when you breed the best to the best, that's the way it's supposed to work.”

While Arrogate will be remembered as a tremendous sire, he didn't necessarily start off that way. When his first crop debuted at the races in 2021, it took until September of that year to get his first winner. He closed his freshman year with 13 winners and nary a splash in stakes company. It was a respectable beginning, but he didn't set the world on fire. Had expectations been too high? It's not always that extraordinary horses are able to replicate themselves. If it were that easy, this game would be simple.

It turns out Arrogate made it simpler than most. Just as Arrogate himself did, his foals just needed a little time.

Remembering Arrogate from Thoroughbred Daily News on Vimeo.

As a refresher, the son of Unbridled's Song–purchased by Juddmonte from breeder Clearsky Farms's consignment at the 2014 Keeneland September sale for $560,000–didn't debut until April of his sophomore season. A stuck-in-traffic third at Los Alamitos, he reappeared in June at Santa Anita with a 4 1/2-length win good for 'TDN Rising Star' status. He wouldn't lose again that year, throwing down the gauntlet with one of the most scintillating GI Travers S. in history. Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, he still holds Saratoga's 1 1/4-mile track record of 1:59.36, just as he still holds Gulfstream's 1 1/8-mile track record of 1:46.83 from his performance the next year in the GI Pegasus World Cup. In between those two records, he captured the GI Breeders' Cup Classic and the 3-year-old Eclipse championship. If that wasn't enough, any rewatch of his spectacular last-to-first G1 Dubai World Cup victory–considered by many to be his finest race–is sure to send tingles up the spine. Although he didn't win again after Dubai, his tenure at the top was dazzling. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2023.

Arrogate retired to Juddmonte at the end of his 4-year-old campaign with an initial advertised fee of $75,000 for 2018. His first book–announced as limited to 142 mares–included 30 Grade I winners or producers. It was a spectacular start, but he would be gone before that first crop made it to the races.

As has been well documented, Arrogate was struck suddenly with an undetermined illness in late May of 2020. It began with a sore neck; in a matter of days he was unable to stand. Every effort was made to save him until he was humanely euthanized in early June. He was only seven.

“It was totally confounding to us at the time,” said O'Rourke. “The autopsy showed he had a core lesion in his spinal cord; it's very difficult to explain how it got there. He was an extremely hyperactive horse, a very sweet horse, but full of energy. He was always bucking, gyrating, twisting, turning. Whatever the cause, there was no recovering from it. I've never spoken to anyone who saw anything like it.

“[Losing him] was the hardest and toughest pill to swallow. We're glad we had him and enjoyed every minute we had him. Hopefully we'll continue the legacy going forward.”

The year after his death, in 2021, his first crop had that slower-than-hoped start. It was a temporary hitch in his legacy which would soon be rectified.

In a hint of what was to come, on New Year's Day in 2022, Arrogate's freshly minted 3-year-olds broke through the stakes ceiling with Alittleloveandluck capturing the Ginger Brew S. at Gulfstream. The late stallion would close the year with four Grade I winners, equaled that year by Gun Runner and American Pharoah. Among all North American sires in 2022, only Curlin would have more.

Seize the Grey | Horsephotos

“What he's done now is what you'd expect of a horse of his caliber, like Frankel (GB) on the other side [of the Atlantic],” said O'Rourke. “Brilliant stallions don't always work out that way.”

With his final crop now three, Arrogate has had 227 starters from his 325 foals. His black-type winners number 22 to date, while his graded winners are currently at 13. That gives him an excellent statistic of 10% stakes winners from starters. He's had four runners tabbed as 'TDN Rising Stars'. And he may not be done yet.

“Something interesting in his stock is a lot of the good ones came out of his third year,” said O'Rourke. “Perhaps people learn the type that works with each successive crop. I've not seen Seize the Grey up close, but while Arcangelo is maybe not as big as the sire, you can definitely see some similarity in the physical type.”

Also intriguing is that of Arrogate's 13 graded winners, four are out of A.P. Indy-line mares, three are out of Raise a Native-line mares, and three are out of Northern Dancer-line mares. The final three represent other broodmare sire lines. Clearly, he was not a stallion limited in his ability to work with various mares.

While Juddmonte is “sadly out of ammunition,” as O'Rourke said, there may be a few more runners yet to make waves for their sire. Remember, at the beginning of this month, Seize the Grey was a 9-1 first-time stakes winner in the GII Pat Day Mile S. Promising prospects include Sidamara, a Bill Mott trainee and Juddmonte homebred, who broke her maiden at Keeneland in April and doubled up at Churchill for a second win on Kentucky Oaks Day from just three starts. On the other side of the world, Assurbanipal, a $1.05-million OBS purchase last year, also made it two for three in Japan this past Saturday. It wouldn't be a shock to see either or both make a splash in stakes company soon.

Every new winner and especially every addition to the stakes ranks has a bittersweet tinge as it accentuates the depth of Arrogate's loss.

“Obviously after he passed there was the disappointment, but that's something where you just have to turn the page,” said O'Rourke. “As horse people, you never get accustomed to it.”

Juddmonte has retained a few of Arrogate's daughters for the organization's famed broodmare band.

“We have a few out of some good mares,” said O'Rourke. “Hopefully he'll be a nice influence going forward.”

Five young mares by Arrogate, including two owned by Juddmonte, produced their first foals in 2023. That number has more than quintupled in 2024. Arrogate's own sire, Unbridled's Song, has been a perpetual placeholder among the leading broodmare sires for years. Buoyed by books of quality over quantity, Arrogate could very well do the same in time.

His three Grade I-winning daughters all sold at Fasig-Tipton's 'Night of the Stars' sale last November. Secret Oath went to Spendthrift Farm for $3 million; And Tell Me Nolies hammered to Narvick International/Grand Stud for $2.3 million; and Fun to Dream brought $1.9 million from K.I. Farm.

Meanwhile, Arrogate's Belmont and Travers winner Arcangelo–named the 2023 Eclipse 3-year-old champion–is currently standing his first season at Lane's End. As a Classic winner, Seize the Grey will get a prime opportunity at stud as well. (Arrogate's other top son, Cave Rock, succumbed to complications from laminitis last year.)

While Arrogate's long-term legacy is far from set in stone, the etching has begun. It's safe to say he has the opportunity to impact the breed for years to come.

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