By Sid Fernando
Neither Arrogate, by Unbridled's Song, nor Laoban, a son of Uncle Mo, is still with us, but a first-crop daughter of the former and a second-crop son of the latter won graded Classic preps at Oaklawn over the weekend, underscoring the sire potential each had. Arrogate was seven when he was euthanized in 2020 and Laoban was eight when he was put down almost a year later.
Arrogate's Secret Oath won the Glll Honeybee S. Saturday by 7 1/2 lengths for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, and she has the look of a special filly. She showed explosive acceleration when asked and covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.74, earning a 92 Beyer figure and 50 qualifying points for the Gl Kentucky Oaks. She's now a winner of four of six starts, the last three in a row, and it's possible she may take on colts next in the Gl Arkansas Derby to earn points for the Gl Kentucky Derby. Lukas has trained a slew of top-class fillies during his decorated career and hasn't been shy to take on colts with the best of them. He won the Arkansas Derby in 1984 with Althea, a filly, and he also trained Winning Colors, who won the Kentucky Derby in 1988 after beating colts in the Gl Santa Anita Derby.
Secret Oath won the Honeybee in the manner of the odds-on favorite she was, returning $2.60. In contrast, Laoban's Un Ojo, a one-eyed New York-bred gelding, was all out to win the Gll Rebel S. by a half-length at 75-1 from the Lukas-trained Ethereal Road (Quality Road), a 16-1 shot, triggering some massive payouts. Saddled by Ricky Courville, Un Ojo covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.69, a slower time than Secret Oath registered in the Honeybee, and he earned an 84 Beyer for his second win in six starts. Nevertheless, Un Ojo picked up 50 qualifying points for the Churchill Classic and earned $600,000 from the $1-million Rebel purse, while Lukas's runner-up took home a check of $200,000 and 25 qualifying points.
In contrast, Secret Oath earned $180,000 for winning the Honeybee and zilch Derby points, which is amusing because she'd likely have won the Rebel based on her Beyer and final time. And Lukas was probably aware beforehand that his filly was better than stablemate Ethereal Road at this point in time, which is another case to make for her testing colts in the Arkansas Derby.
Secret Oath is one of two black-type winners for her sire, who was a late-developing colt at his best at 1 1/4 miles. Trained by Bob Baffert, Arrogate won seven of 11 starts, earned a North American record of $17.4 million, and is remembered for a remarkable four-race win streak that encompassed the Gl Travers S., Gl Breeders' Cup Classic, Gl Pegasus World Cup Invitational, and the G1 Dubai World Cup. Despite not winning his first stakes race until the Travers in late August of his sophomore season, he won an Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old colt.
Arrogate entered stud at his owner's Juddmonte in 2018 for a $75,000 fee–highest of all new recruits in North America, with Gun Runner next at $70,000–and was considered Unbridled's Song's last and best hope for getting a top-level stallion son. So far, Secret Oath aside, Arrogate hasn't met expectations, but it's early yet for the type of horse he was, and he'll have three crops to prove his worth, with the Lukas filly leading the way at the moment.
Another young Unbridled's Song son, Lane's End's Liam's Map has exceeded expectations and has quickly become a high-level stallion with four Grade l winners so far, and at this point it looks like he may end up as his sire's best son at stud. It's instructive here to compare his pedigree to those of both Arrogate and Secret Oath.
First, both Arrogate and Liam's Map are bred on a similar cross, as each is from a Forty Niner-line mare.
Second, Liam's Map and Secret Oath share some notable ancestors in their respective backgrounds. I wrote about Liam's Map's pedigree here last October–“Flying Unbridled's Song Flag”–but the short takeaway linking the two is this: both have a lot of Tartan's Aspidistra, the dam of champions Dr. Fager and Ta Wee, in their genetic makeup.
Note that Unbridled, the sire of Unbridled's Song, was 4×4 to Aspidistra–his fourth dam. Liam's Map's second dam Yada Yada was closely inbred 2×3 to Ta Wee, giving Liam's Map four repetitions of Aspidistra, his sixth dam, 6x6x5x6. The other cross to the Tartan foundation mare comes through Great Above, a son of Ta Wee.
Secret Oath, like Liam's Map, also gets Aspidistra twice through Unbridled. But she also gets another two doses through her broodmare sire Quiet American, who was 3×2 to Dr. Fager, and one through Great Above, just like Liam's Map. She is, therefore, 7x7x6x5x5 to Aspidistra, for a total of five crosses.
In fact, the imprimatur of John Nerud and Tartan is all over the pedigree of Secret Oath. Another great foundation mare for Nerud/Tartan was Cequillo, the third dam of Fappiano and his son Quiet American. Because Secret Oath is inbred 4×3 to Fappiano and is from a Quiet American mare, she has Cequillo 7x6x5.
Secret Oath is owned by Briland Farm and was bred by Briland in partnership with Robert Mitchell and Stacy Mitchell. Secret Oath's dam, the Quiet American mare Absinthe Minded, also bred by the same connections and raced by Briland with Lukas, was a multiple Grade l-placed stakes winner of $607,747, but there isn't much black type in the pedigree under the next few dams. The third and fourth dams, Rockford Peach, by Great Above; and Strawberry Skyline, by Hatchet Man, respectively, were bred in New York by Michael Mulholland.
Un Ojo was bred in New York by Southern Equine Stables and is raced by Cypress Creek Equine. In partnership, Southern Equine raced Laoban, whose only win from nine starts came in the Gll Jim Dandy S. at Saratoga. The son of Uncle Mo retired to Sequel Stallions in New York with earnings of $526,250 and initially stood for $7,500, but he was a hit with his first 2-year-olds–ending up second on the 2020 first-crop list behind Uncle Mo's Nyquist–and was moved to WinStar in Kentucky for the 2021 season at a $25,000 fee.
Along with Nyquist and Outwork, Laoban was part of a trio of Uncle Mo freshmen to make an immediate impact in 2020. He's the sire of 10 black-type winners, with his first crop containing Grade l winner Simply Ravishing and Grade ll winner and multiple Grade l-placed Keepmeinmind, a surefire sign that Laoban was moving his mares way up.
Un Ojo is a well-bred gelding compared to some others by his sire, who covered mares for $5,000 in his last season in New York. Un Ojo's dam is the A.P. Indy mare Risk a Chance, a New York-bred stakes-placed winner for owner/breeders Chester and Mary Broman. Risk a Chance was out of the Broman-bred Seeking the Gold mare Seeking the Ante, a Grade ll winner of almost $400,000, who in turn was produced by multiple Grade l winner Antespend, an Elmendorf-bred daughter of Spend a Buck raced by the Bromans late in her career after Elmendorf's Jack Kent Cooke passed away. Antespend also produced the Bromans' homebred Gl Florida Derby winner Friends Lake.
The Bromans bred Risk a Chance's first three living foals (she was not pregnant in 2016 and aborted in 2017) without stakes success. Her first foal by Desert Party was unplaced, the second, by Freud, was a winner who earned almost $120,000 racing exclusively at Finger Lakes, and her third was a Quality Road colt, now four, who is unraced after bringing $550,000 as a yearling at Saratoga. They sold Risk a Chance in foal to Laoban for $40,000 at the Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga Fall Mixed sale in 2018, and Southern Equine was the lucky buyer.
That fortuitous purchase made Southern Equine the breeder of Un Ojo, who now has a ticket to the Kentucky Derby.
Sid Fernando is president and CEO of Werk Thoroughbred Consultants, Inc., originator of the Werk Nick Rating and eNicks.