Kentucky Derby pedigree profile: Liberal Arts

April 1st, 2024

Winner of the Street Sense (G3) and third in the Iroquois (G3) at Churchill Downs, Liberal Arts is emerging as a Road to the Kentucky Derby contender with a clear affinity for the Kentucky Derby (G1) host track.

The question is, does Liberal Arts have the pedigree to shine racing 1 1/4 miles on the first Saturday in May? At least at first glance, his pedigree gives off mixed signals.

Liberal Arts is a son of Arrogate, who brings stamina to the equation. Arrogate shattered a longstanding track record when dominating the 1 1/4-mile Travers (G1) at Saratoga and followed up with victories in the 1 1/4-mile Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), 1 1/8-mile Pegasus World Cup (G1), and 1 1/4-mile Dubai World Cup (G1).

At stud, Arrogate has sired major winners over a wide variety of distances. Cave Rock, And Tell Me Nolies, and Fun to Dream have won Grade 1 sprints, but Cave Rock stretched his speed over 1 1/16 miles to win the American Pharoah (G1), and Arrogate is also the sire of 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Secret Oath and 1 1/2-mile Belmont (G1) hero Arcangelo. All told, the progeny of Arrogate have won at the lofty average distance of 7.8 furlongs, which indicates a stallion who passes on stamina more than speed.

But Liberal Arts has likely inherited speed from the bottom half of his pedigree. His dam is Ismene, a sprinter who recorded all three of her victories (including two stakes) dashing seven furlongs or less. Her winning foals prior to Liberal Arts include Barretts Debutante S. winner Ismelucky and the multiple stakes-placed Nardini, two fillies who did their best work sprinting.

Furthermore, Ismene is a daughter of Tribal Rule, whose brief racing career yielded a pair of victories sprinting six furlongs. His progeny have won at the sharply speed-oriented distance of 6.1 furlongs, with talented examples including seven-furlong Del Mar Futurity (G1) winner Georgie Boy and five-furlong Eddie D (G2) winner Pee Wee Reese.

On the other hand, the best of Tribal Rule’s progeny have been more than pure speedsters. Georgie Boy took the 1 1/16-mlie San Felipe (G2), Pee Wee Reese won the one-mile American (G3), Spanish Queen starred in the 1 1/4-mile American Oaks (G1) and 1 1/8-mile Honeymoon (G2), Marckie’s Water won the 1 1/4-mile Charles Whittingham (G2), and Alphie’s Bet prevailed in the 1 1/16-mile Sham (G3).

Some bettors might view with skepticism the possibility of Tribal Rule becoming the dam sire of a Kentucky Derby winner, but Tribal Rule’s ability to sire route racers in addition to speed horses—coupled with the stamina offered by Arrogate—gives Liberal Arts potential for success racing 1 1/4 miles in the Kentucky Derby.