By Christie DeBernardis
DEL MAR, CA–Standing outside Del Mar’s Barn BB watching champion Arrogate (Unbridled’s Song)cool down after his morning gallop with his title defense in the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic rapidly approaching, owner Juddmonte Farm’s U.S. manager Garrett O’Rourke remained as cool and composed as could be. Both O’Rourke and his farm’s superstar horse seemed unphased by the hype, nerves and pressure on the gray as he heads into his career finale Saturday.
After a pair of un-Arrogate like efforts in his last two starts at Del Mar, many are questioning if the “TDN Rising Star” has lost a step, but O’Rourke is certainly not one of those doubters.
“We are quietly confident,” the Irishman said. “We had a chat after the Pacific Classic. We were very candid about our plans moving forward. Bob [Baffert] had all of his plans in mind and he said, ‘If everything falls into place, we show up and if not, we don’t even think about coming.’ There hasn’t been a single day that he has reported anything but positive progress. The horse is doing great. Everyone is feeling good. The energy level is high. The trainer’s energy level is high. The jockey’s energy level is high, so we are feeling confident.”
Last term, Arrogate steam rolled the field in the inaugural running of the $12 million GI Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream in January (video). If the Eclipese winner were to enter again this year, he would certainly be one of the heavy hitters, but O’Rourke said the Juddmonte team was never tempted to postpone Arrogate’s retirement to defend his title in that test.
“I think there comes a time when you feel like, ‘If we are going to retire him, what is the best way to do it,’” O’Rourke said. “I think you have to make the horses available for viewing to breeders and I don’t think there is ever any perfect time to retire a horse. Hopefully, if the horse is absolutely at the top of his game and puts on a good performance, I think that is an appropriate time to do it. But, I think you have to commit from a breeders point of view and that is what we did.”
Juddmonte stands five horses at its European base, headlined by the might Frankel (GB), but currently has just one stud at its Kentucky farm in Mizzen Mast. While every top stallion operation in the country would kill for a chance to stand North America’s richest Thoroughbred, O’Rourke said there was never a thought that Arrogate would stand anywhere but Prince Khalid Abdullah’s U.S. facility.
“I think our plan has always been that if we have exceptional horses, we stand them ourselves because those horses are going to be mates for all of our own mares as well,” O’Rourke said. “That means we don’t have a big stallion roster ever at our base in Europe or over here, but they are certainly high quality horses, and there is no higher quality than Arrogate.”
To ensure the quality and value of Arrogate’s future offspring, the Juddmonte team has limited the size of his book.
“We have set it at 142 mares very strictly with about 20 of them being our own,” O’Rourke said. “We do feel that he deserves to breed to the very best mares. I think breeders are feeling if they want to bring them to the best sales, they will benefit from the scarcity of them. We will definitely adhere to that number strictly.”
Juddmonte has been slowly acquiring mares that they believe will be ideal future mates for Arrogate throughout the year. One of those mares is Paulassilverlining (Ghostzapper), who will be one of the top choices in Saturday’s GI Breeders’ Cup F/M Sprint.
Privately purchased and transferred to Chad Brown at the start of this term, Paulassilverlining proved a shrewd buy from the get go, reeling off a trio of wins in the GI Madison S. Apr. 8, the GI Humana Distaff May 6 and the GII Honorable Miss H. July 25 (video). The bay was a head-scratching fifth last time behind the reopposing By the Moon (Indian Charlie) as the favorite in Saratoga’s GI Ballerina S. Aug. 26, but has been freshened in the interim.
“Obviously she hasn’t raced in a while, but she is very fresh, sound and in very, very good mental form as she always is,” O’Rourke said. “That is what I admire most about her is how confident she is. She is as good as she has been going into any race this year and, of those races, she has won two Grade Is and a Grade II. That puts her right up there with the favorites. What Unique Bella does is what, I think, everyone is holding their breaths to see, if she is the next freak, superstar. I do have every confidence that Paula will put in the brave, gutsy effort that she always does.”
Paulassilverlining will also be retired following the Breeders’ Cup and will be part of Arrogate’s first book this breeding season.
“Hopefully, they will both retire as the celebrities they have developed into and at the top of their game,” O’Rourke said. “Obviously, we are very proud of her and all that she has achieved. She has become a personal favorite in that she is so tough. She was selected because she would be an ideal type of mate both physically and capability wise [for Arrogate]. We have acquired several others that will be suitable and, obviously, we have a very strong broodmare band of our own that will be in his book next year. Hopefully, from those we will produce the next Arrogate and the next superstar.”