With victory in Pegasus World Cup on Jan. 28, champion Arrogate took a giant leap toward becoming the leading money winner in the States, perhaps even the world.
The current leading American money winner is California Chrome, who has earned $14,752,650 with 16 victories from 27 starts, racing from 2 to 6. Now retired to stud at Taylor Made Farm south of Lexington, Ky., California Chrome was the 1.20-1 second choice in the massive betting pool for the Pegasus, earning another $250,000.
The winner Arrogate was the race favorite, and the gray son of Unbridled’s Song leapt to third place among American-raced horses with the $7 million winner’s purse on Saturday. Arrogate now has $11,084,600 in earnings, and with several very rich prizes coming up through the remainder of the year.
If the gray colt’s owner elects to send Arrogate to Dubai, a victory there would make him the leading American racer by earnings. If they elect to forego the big race in Dubai and concentrate on a domestic campaign to take the colt to the Breeders’ Cup, and possibly the second Pegasus World Cup next January, then Arrogate would also be in a position to become the leading money winner.
Except in Japan.
The biggest money winners worldwide all come from Japan: T M Opera O, Orfevre, and Buena Vista sit atop the world stats, and Arrogate would need to win both the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the 2018 Pegasus to leapfrog over all the rich Pacific Rim racers to lead the world in earnings at $20 million or more.
Whether that happens or not, Arrogate will be a wildly popular stallion prospect whenever he retires to stud. He is the most celebrated son of Unbridled’s Song and even represents an advance on that very talented horse’s accomplishments. There is actually a great deal of Unbridled, the sire of Unbridled’s Song, about Arrogate.
So capturing the world’s leadership in racecourse earnings would be a desirable piece of frosting on the grand gray’s cake, but it wouldn’t mean more than showing very high form, speed, consistency, and soundness.
Through the prism of history, the status of being a leading money winner may mean a little or a lot. Even taking out the non-breeding leaders like Kelso, the list is littered with very good racehorses who found markedly less success at stud. Among the solid representatives, Triple Crown winner Citation and multiple champion Nashua were goodish sires but nothing like so accomplished as on the racetrack.
In contrast, however, three very important stallions were earnings leaders. The 1958 Horse of the Year was Round Table, who won 43 races and more than $1.7 million. At stud, he became an international success with classic winner Baldric, highweight 2-year-old Apalachee, as well as major American winners like Royal Glint and King Pellinore.
More than a half-century earlier, the greatest money winner of the 1890s was the fleet Domino, winner of 19 races from 25 starts and earner of $193,550. He then retired to a brief spell at stud that made him one of the most successful sires in history for percentage of quality horses to foals. His earnings as evidence of outstanding merit was emphasized by his tenure as leading earner for 17 years.
And the horse who bumped Domino from his perch as top earner was nothing less than Man o’ War.
A winner in 20 of his 21 starts, Man o’ War also prospered from the rise in purses during the 1920s, but he became a sire of equal significance. The chestnut son of Fair Play sired classic winners American Flag, Crusader, Clyde Van Dusen, and War Admiral, plus major performers like Mars (Travers), War Hero (Travers), War Relic (Massachusetts Handicap), Scapa Flow (Futurity), Edith Cavell (Coaching Club American Oaks), and Bateau (Suburban).
These leading money winners possessed all the esteemed characteristics of top racehorses, which they translated into winning races at the highest level. Essentially, large purse earnings are one more indicator of high merit, rather like a card that gets you into the dance.
Both California Chrome and Arrogate will receive considerable support from breeders, and the success of the resulting foals will determine their sires’ ranking in the ongoing game of the great sport of the racecourse.