The Legacy of Arrogate: Gone Too Soon, Yet Just Getting Started



It was a little over six years ago when Juddmonte Farms' Arrogate (Unbridled's Song), seemingly from out of nowhere, took the racing world by storm. Producing heroics, often in jaw-dropping, record-breaking fashion, in the GI Travers S., GI Breeders' Cup Classic, GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational S. and G1 Dubai World Cup in succession, the imposing gray quickly catapulted himself into the discussion of all-time greats.

Though his racing career fizzled somewhat when he finished off the board in two of his final three starts after returning from Dubai, the enthusiasm was hardly dampened for what he could do as a stallion. As the last great son of generational sire Unbridled's Song and hailing from a deep female family highlighted by champion and six-time Grade I-winning third dam Meadow Star (Meadowlake), the sky was the limit for Arrogate as he took residence at Juddmonte in 2018. Not long after, tragedy struck.

Nearing the end of just his third season at stud, Arrogate collapsed suddenly in his stall and was unable to get back up. After a draining four days of testing at the Hagyard Clinic attempting to diagnose and save him, he was euthanized on June 2, 2020 at only seven years old. The mystery illness was later determined to be a lesion to his spinal cord that rendered him a quadriplegic.

“We were completely gutted by how it happened, and still are scratching our heads a bit,” Juddmonte general manager Garrett O'Rourke said. “For such a young horse, it was totally unexpected. It was extremely gutting for that to happen.”

The legacy of Arrogate, once thought sure to be etched in stone, was entirely up in the air as recently as last year. Seemingly as quickly as he appeared, dazzling the sport with his blinding brilliance, he was gone, with a mere three crops of foals now tasked with ensuring his name would live on beyond the late 2010s.

It frankly didn't look hopeful from the early results that they were up to the challenge. It took until Sept. 6, 2021, roughly five months after 2-year-olds began racing in North America for the year, for Arrogate to record his first winner as a stallion when DJ Stable's Adversity captured a fairly slow New York-bred maiden special weight at Saratoga. Momentum started to build somewhat from there, and he finished 2021 with 13 winners–a respectable number, but not the freshman sire splash Arrogate was expected to make.

Then, on the first day of 2022, a filly named Alittleloveandluck belatedly planted Arrogate's flag in stakes territory, capturing the Ginger Brew S. on the Gulfstream turf. Little did anyone know then, but that victory would be the perfect lid-lifter for what has become a breakout season for Arrogate the stallion at the highest level, with stars Secret Oath, Cave Rock and And Tell Me Nolies giving him three Grade I winners from just 92 total starters. Juddmonte itself has campaigned an additional stakes winner for him in Curlin S. victor Artorius.

“As Bob Baffert says, and I think Cave Rock and Secret Oath are like this: they're cruising along and then you let them down and their head drops down about five or six inches and that's the way they run,” O'Rourke said. “It's a very effective and efficient action. That's all you want out of them. You don't need them to look like their sire as long as they can run like him, and they definitely do run like him.”

As a filly and potential future broodmare, Secret Oath charging to victory in the GI Kentucky Oaks provided hope that Arrogate's longevity in the Thoroughbred breed might yet endure. Same goes for And Tell Me Nolies, who so far has conquered the GI Del Mar Debutante S. and GII Chandelier, and figures to be among the favorites in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

But the greatest triumph for Arrogate's legacy from his first two crops is almost certainly the emergence of Cave Rock. The dark bay, bought for $550,000 at Keeneland September–just $10,000 shy of matching Arrogate's selling price at the same auction in 2014–has been devastating in three starts, following up a six-length debut romp with a pair of easy, 5 1/4-length victories in the GI Del Mar Futurity and GI American Pharoah S. He will be heavily favored in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile and is already guaranteed to be a sought-after stallion prospect regardless of what he does on the first Friday in November or, for that matter, next year's first Saturday in May.

Quick as this industry is to overreact to slow starts from freshman stallions, many were willing to write off Arrogate as a breeding influence early on. But in under a year, his progeny have completely turned that narrative around, and if you ask O'Rourke, he's not surprised.

“To say there was no doubt would be a little too cocky, but I had expectations of what he could and should be from experience of watching that sire line most especially,” he said. “A lot of people don't realize how slow a start Unbridled got off to with his 2-year-olds, and Unbridled's Song was that type as well. I likened [Arrogate] to a stallion like Curlin; you've got to let them be what they're bred to be and when they do get to that point in time, they're going to be very effective. Impatience just doesn't go hand in hand with those types of horses. Obviously, Unbridled's Song was a champion 2-year-old and maybe that came through with this year's 2-year-olds as well, but I think definitely the Secret Oath, Artorius types are exactly what we expected of Arrogate. It's brash to say that was a lock, but that's what we hoped for him and that's what they're doing.”

The surge in positive results on the racetrack has translated into the sales ring too. After 43 of 61 Arrogate yearlings offered from his first crop in 2020 sold for an average of $227,049, that average dropped precipitously to $142,519 in 2021 from 52 of 68 sold. This year, Arrogate's yearling average has jumped all the way back up to surpass his 2020 output at $241,400, with 56 of 61 changing hands.

“I was just feeling so sorry for the people that bred to him, that were so committed to him, that were left feeling a little bit empty on their investment,” O'Rourke said. “I was delighted to see him get the runners, but I was more delighted for the breeders who supported him to see their Arrogates sell so well at the sales this year, because it could've gone the other way for them. But everything fell into place and it happened at the right time, just before the sales.”

O'Rourke added that he thinks breeders adapting their mares to Arrogate's physical traits after his first season has aided his breakout, creating more harmonious matings for his second and especially third seasons at stud.

“The other thing about him is he probably had his best-looking crop of yearlings this year at the sales,” O'Rourke said. “He was a big horse and I always feel like breeders take a look at the first crop and they go, 'OK, well we bred a really good mare to him in the first year but maybe physically she wasn't the ideal type, so we'll tweak that in year two,' and then they really get it right in year three. I'm going to give the breeders all the credit for picking the right physical types of mares as opposed to pedigree crosses in year three, because you can see it in his sales averages. I saw them individually at the sales; they were a lovely crop of yearlings, and if they run according to their looks, it'll be really ironic that his third crop will quite possibly be the best of all three of his crops.”

If that turns out to be true, let there be no doubt that the legacy of Arrogate–the supernova who appeared in danger of being mostly forgotten just a year ago–will instead be undeniable for decades to come.

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