Digging Into the Data: Sires Flying High in Pegasus World Cup

Noble Bird is one of the Grade 1 winners in the field
In a race that has been in the headlines since it was announced last year, it’s fitting that the Pegasus World Cup has more than just a few interesting bloodline tidbits. From a mare who brings two rivals together to two horses looking to make earnings history, here are 13 pedigree facts you should know before Saturday’s race.

Starters’ Resumes - The headliners of this race are obviously Arrogate (Unbridled’s Song) and California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) but the 12 horse Pegasus field is actually a decently competitive one when you look past them. Six of the runners are Grade 1 winners, one is a Grade 2 winner, one is a Grade 3 winner, one is a stakes winner and the four who haven’t yet broken through at the stakes level are all graded stakes placed. The field includes two Eclipse winners who have five Eclipse Awards between them (Arrogate and California Chrome) and one Canadian champion (Shaman Ghost). Restricted to horses aged four and older, the field ranges in age from four to nine years of age. Eight of the 12 horses are five or younger.

Kentucky Stallions – Nine of the 12 sires in the field currently reside in Kentucky or stood in the state at the time of their death in the case of Unbridled’s Song and Harlan’s Holiday. Of the other three sires, one currently stands in Pennsylvania (Jump Start), one in California (Lucky Pulpit) and Offlee Wild stood in Turkey at the time of his death last year.

2017 Stud Fees – This year’s stud fees for the living sires range from $7,500 to $250,000. The average 2017 stud fee for the nine living sires is $66,833 with four sires standing for under $10,000 this year and one other standing for under $20,000. The two highest 2017 stud fees are War Front at $250,000 and Curlin at $150,000. They are the only stallions with runners in this race standing for over $100,000.

War Front
Stud Fees at Time of Conception – Five of 11 stallions (due to lack of data on his southern hemisphere fee, Offlee Wild’s (Wild Again) stud fee isn’t counted) with runners in the Pegasus have seen their fees increase since the runner was conceived. The largest increase comes from War Front (Danzig), who stood for $15,000 in 2011 when War Envoy was conceived and now stands for $250,000. Other major notable increases are Ghostzapper, who stood for $20,000 at the time Shaman Ghost was conceived and is now at $75,000 and Curlin, who made a $110,000 jump to $150,000 from $40,000 in 2011. The average stud fee of the sires with runners in the Pegasus at the time of their runner’s conception (excluding Offlee Wild) was $36,591. The 11 runner counted were conceived for a total combined advertised stud fee total of $402,500.

Sire Ages – (Living) sires ranging from 10 to 24 years of age have a runner in the Pegasus. The youngest is Lookin at Lucky (Smart Strike), who at 10 is the youngest by three years, while the oldest is shared by Distorted Humor (Forty Niner) and Northern Afleet (Afleet) at 24. Half of the sires with runners are between 13 and 18 years of age with the sire average sitting at 17 years old. The 24-year-old and 16-year-old generations tie for the most runners with those two sire ages having two runners apiece.

Northern Afleet
My Daddy is Your Granddaddy- It’s no surprise with some older gentlemen in the field that some sires are also the broodmare sires of other runners. Distorted Humor is the sire of Semper Fortis and is also the broodmare sire of Arrogate (Unbridled’s Song). Ironically, Unbridled’s Song is also a sire and broodmare sire, with his daughter Rebridled Dreams the dam of Distorted Humor’s Semper Fortis. While Awesome Again (Deputy Minister) doesn’t have a runner in the race, he also fits into this club of being found on the sire and dam side of runners with his daughter producing Keen Ice (Curlin) and his son Ghostzapper the sire of Shaman Ghost.

A.P. Indy
No Tapit? – It’s rare these days that Tapit (Pulpit) doesn’t have a runner in a big race but that’s the case here. For those who are fans of his sire line though, have no fear. A.P Indy (Seattle Slew) is the grandsire or great-grandsire of two runners, one of those being through Pulpit’s son Lucky Pulpit. The A.P. Indy/Pulpit sire line is also responsible for the dam of War Story (Northern Afleet). So Tapit may not be represented in this race but his sire and grandsire are both there.

Mr. Prospector – Welcome to North America, where Mr. Prospector’s (Raise a Native) line is alive and well. Mr. Prospector is found in the sire line of six of the 12 runners with his grandson Unbridled (Fappiano) being the grandsire of Birdstone (Grindstone), who has Noble Bird in the race, in addition to being the grandsire of Arrogate. Smart Strike’s (Mr. Prospector) sons Curlin and Looking at Lucky are also responsible for two other runners. Five runners have Mr. Prospector to thank for their damsire with four different Mr. Prospector sire lines bringing in that blood. Arrogate and Semper Fortis both have the distinction of both their sires and damsires being from Mr. Prospector’s sire line.

Northern Dancer – U.S. pedigrees may not be as filled with Northern Dancer sires as Europe, but have no fear – the 1964 Kentucky Derby winner is still going strong here. Northern Dancer is found in the fourth generation of War Envoy’s (War Front) sire line, five generations back in Shaman Ghost’s sire line and six generations back in Neolithic’s (Harlan’s Holiday) and is just as popular as a broodmare sire in this race. Three of the dams who produced Pegasus runners are by sires who trace back to Northern Dancer with two having Deputy Minister (Vice Regent) to thank for that. Overall, Deputy Minister’s branch of the family is responsible for three of the horses in this race with Northern Dancer’s sire line, two runners thanks to his son Awesome Again and another thanks to Mr. Sparkles.

Dams – Dams always have a disadvantage when trying to get more than one runner in a race compared to sires but one dam can brag about having two runners in the Pegasus. Lucky Spell (Lucky Mel), who is the granddam of Unbridled’s Song is also the granddam of Lucky Pulpit, connecting the two biggest runners in the race even more than their rivalry already did.
California Chrome's sire is a grandson of Lucky Spell
Auctions – In an increasingly commercial industry, it’s no surprise that nine of the Pegasus participants sold at auction at least once. While none of them sold for extremely cheap prices, you could have bought Grade 1 winner Keen Ice for only $48,000 as a weanling. He is one of two horses who sold at auction twice and the least expensive of all the Pegasus runners who have gone through the ring. The most expensive horse is Arrogate, followed by Semper Fortis, bringing $560,000 and $525,000 respectively. Seven of the runners sold as yearlings with War Story (Northern Afleet) also selling as a 2-year-old. War Envoy didn’t go through the ring as a youngster but has had auction experience, selling for $150,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s July Horses of Racing Age sale last year. Keeneland’s September Yearling sale has the most entries in this race with six runners selling there.

War Envoy before selling last year
Homebreds – Two of the horses running in the Pegasus are still owned in part by their breeders. California Chrome, who runs under the ownership of California Chrome LLC, is still co-owned by co-breeder Perry Martin with a group that includes Taylor Made Farm. Shaman Ghost is another still owned by his breeder with Adena Springs breeding and owning the horse. It’s a true family affair for that runner as Adena Springs bred both his sire and grandsire (and stands them in Kentucky). Shaman Ghost will likely retire to Adena Springs’ Kentucky farm at the conclusion of his career, giving the farm three generations of sires if Awesome Again is still an active stallion at that time.

Chasing Titles – California Chrome is already the richest North American-based horse in history with $14,502,650 in earnings. But the horse could become one of the richest all time Thoroughbreds, if not the richest if he takes home the estimated $7-million winner’s share on Saturday. On the same vein, while Arrogate won’t become the richest horse he will become one of only three U.S.-based horses in history to have over $10-million in earnings if he wins the Pegasus. He currently has earnings of $4,084,000 with most of that coming from his Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic victory over California Chrome last year.

Pegasus World Cup Entries

Unbridled’s Song
Distorted Humor
Prayer for Relief
Jump Start
Sparklin Lil
Mr. Sparkles
Harlan’s Holiday
Victory Gallop
Noble Bird
War Story
Northern Afleet
Belle Watling
War Envoy
War Front
La Conseillante
Elusive Quality
Shaman Ghost
Getback Time
Gilded Time
Semper Fortis
Distorted Humor
Rebridled Dreams
Unbridled’s Song
Keen Ice
Awesome Again
Breaking Lucky
Lookin at Lucky
Shooting Party
Sky Classic
Offlee Wild
Express Time
Shy Tom
California Chrome
Lucky Pulpit
Love the Chase
Not For Love


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