Juddmonte Farm’s champion Arrogate was sure to attract marquee mares in his first season at stud, but his initial book just got an upgrade with Monday’s news that the dazzling Songbird will honor him as her first suitor. The wedding of the two future Hall of Famers was announced in Thoroughbred Daily News.
Dual Eclipse Award champion Songbird was two photo-finishes away from retiring unbeaten, and her ultra-reliable profile may provide stability to Arrogate’s meteoric rose-and-fall trajectory. Her only two losses came at the hands of fellow champions – surefire Hall of Famer Beholder denied her in an epic Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) in 2016, and presumptive divisional champion Forever Unbridled caught Songbird in the August 26 Personal Ensign (G1) on the way to her Breeders’ Cup Distaff triumph on November 3 at Del Mar.
Subsequently found to have injured suspensories behind, and a serious bone chip, Songbird was immediately retired by owner Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farm. The four-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro was offered at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky’s November Sale, where she was predictably the star of the show when selling to Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm for $9.5 million.
Although Songbird won both of her starts at 1 1/4 miles, in the 2016 Alabama (G1) and the July 15 Delaware H. (G1), the American classic distance appeared to stretch her. Her chief weapon was speed, on display in her nine Grade 1 conquests including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), Cotillion (G1), and Ogden Phipps (G1).
Arrogate, although he blitzed the 2016 Travers (G1) in a front-running track record of 1:59.36, was a different type. His ensuing victories came in off-the-pace style in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), the inaugural Pegasus World Cup (G1), and most famously in the Dubai World Cup (G1) that made him North America’s all-time earnings leader. His superior stamina came to the fore over 1 1/4 miles, but he showed a quick burst on the far turn in the 1 1/8-mile Pegasus to post a Gulfstream track record of 1:46.83. Unfortunately, Arrogate lacked Songbird’s consistency over the long haul, and fizzled in the second half of 2017.
Pope told TDN’s Bill Finley that Arrogate fit Songbird well from both a pedigree and physical perspective, a view shared by Juddmonte’s Garrett O’Rourke.
“They’re hopefully a match made in heaven and hopefully they will produce a product we will all be talking about in three, four years’ time,” O’Rourke told TDN.
Indeed, the marriage of Arrogate and Songbird reminds me of a breeding axiom – namely, reinforcing key strains that appear in the maternal half of the sire’s pedigree. That’s an idea that the great early 20th century breeder E.R. Bradley espoused, and Olin Gentry, his Idle Hour farm manager, put into practice.
“Mr. Bradley taught me to intensify the best blood of the dam of the stallion,” Gentry told Ken McLean in his Quest for a Classic Winner. “It really worked!”
Gentry cited as a case in point the pedigree of Blue Larkspur. An outstanding racehorse, and later an influential sire, Blue Larkspur was bred along that pattern by duplicating the mare *Padua, direct maternal ancestress of both his sire and dam.
As you can see from this hypothetical pedigree of the projected foal by Arrogate and out of Songbird, there’s a doubling down on the significant factors in Arrogate’s dam, Bubbler. She is by the Forty Niner stallion Distorted Humor and out of a Deputy Minister mare. Songbird’s dam, Ivanavinalot, reflects the same cross, being by Forty Niner’s son West Acre and likewise out of a daughter of Deputy Minister:
The Arrogate-Songbird foal also carries a third strain of Forty Niner’s sire, Mr. Prospector, the male line whence Arrogate descends. Considering that this is the superb sire line advanced by Fappiano/Unbridled, Arrogate has every chance to pass on his raw physical ability to his offspring. And if Songbird adds the mix of speed and a rock-solid mentality to his stamina, their baby could be special.
At least, that’s the hope that keeps the breeding industry afloat.