The victory of the young stallion’s first-crop son Mucho Gusto in the Grade 1 Pegasus Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 25, has propelled Mucho Macho Man into an enviable position at the top of the leading sire rankings for 2020. With more than $1.7 million in total progeny earnings, Mucho Macho Man has more than double the earnings of the second-place sire Into Mischief (Harlan’s Holiday), who was the leading sire of 2019.
“But wait, Colonel, isn’t $1.7 million what you earn for finishing fifth in the Pegasus?”
Nyet, comrade. You are thinking of last year or the two years before. When Juddmonte’s great gray colt Arrogate swept the field in January 2017, he won $7 million, and the second-place horse, Shaman Ghost (Ghostzapper), earned $1.7 million. Not a bad payday, then or now.
Arrogate, however, elevated his sire, the deceased Unbridled’s Song, to the leading sire in the country with that winner’s purse, and then Arrogate and four other graded stakes winners kept their sire in the premier spot for the rest of the season, with Unbridled’s Song finishing 2017 as the leading sire with $18.5 million.
The same thing happened in 2018, when Gun Runner put his sire, Candy Ride, at the top of the leader board, then kept him there, with the help of 16 other stakes winners, to finish with $17.9 million. [Candy Ride was the leading sire, depending on which sire list you inspect. If one counts the $3 million that Hawkbill earned in Dubai, then his sire, Kitten’s Joy, is leading sire with $18.6 million.] Likewise in 2019, City of Light won the Pegasus impressively and placed his sire, Quality Road (Elusive Quality), at the top of the leading sire list. Last year, however, was the first drop in prize money for the Pegasus, and the $4 million for winning the race wasn’t enough to guarantee the winner’s sire getting the overall leadership.
Indeed, even without City of Light winning more money (he retired to stud), Quality Road did extremely well in 2019, finishing fifth overall with $13.2 million, but the $3 million difference for the Pegasus alone would have placed Quality Road a strong second on the list at the end of 2019 behind the effervescent Into Mischief, who wasn’t going to be denied with $18.9 million.
Even without a guarantee of sire list leadership, Mucho Gusto’s performance puts Mucho Macho Man in grand company, with Into Mischief, Curlin, Tapit, and Uncle Mo ranking slightly below. And prior to the Pegasus, the striking chestnut Mucho Gusto was sold in a private transaction by previous owner Michael Lund Petersen to Prince Faisal bin Khalid of Saudi Arabia, and the colt’s next goal is the Saudi Cup worth $20 million.
Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my!
Therefore, leading a sire list is not out of the realm of possibility for Mucho Macho Man, who ranked among the top 10 of his contemporaries the past two years. In 2018, he was ninth among freshmen sires behind group leader Cross Traffic (Unbridled’s Song), then eighth among second-crop sires led by such as Goldencents (Into Mischief), Noble Mission (Galileo), and Cairo Prince (Pioneerof the Nile).
Now Mucho Macho Man is leading his contemporaries, as well as all other sires, and should the stallion’s leading performer win one of the major prizes, such as the Saudi Cup, or the one in Dubai, or even the one that the Breeders’ Cup puts on at the end of the year, then the 17-hand stallion could become the first general sire list leader from his male line in more than a century.
This is a very special sire line, scantily represented for decades, that comes down from the 19th century stallion Himyar (Alarm), who sired two important stallion sons. The most important by all measures was Domino, who would have been one of the greatest sires in the history of the breed but for dying very young and leaving 21 foals behind. Even so, he founded one of the “American” lines that produced champions Commando, Colin, Alsab, and others.
The “other” Himyar was 1898 Kentucky Derby winner Plaudit, and this is the branch of Himyar that resulted in 1994 Horse of the Year Holy Bull (Great Above), his champion son Macho Uno, and his best son Mucho Macho Man.
Although the champions Holy Bull and Macho Uno had some splendid years at stud, neither led the general sire list. None of the sires in the direct male line from Plaudit to Mucho Macho Man have led the general sire list. One of the great-uncles, Dr. Fager, is a son of Mucho Macho Man’s fifth-generation sire Rough’n Tumble, and Dr. Fager led the sire list in 1977, a year after the 1968 Horse of the Year had died at age 12.
It’s a long time coming, but Mucho Macho Man could write some history of his own this year.