His moniker might have suggested otherwise, but don't let it fool you. At the very least, he was bred for graded stakes success.
But when all was said and done, he achieved that and more.
In the months following Justify's Triple Crown, Improbable wasted no time establishing himself in Bob Baffert's barn. Going undefeated as a juvenile, he closely tracked the pace before winning at Santa Anita, Churchill Downs and Los Alamitos. The latter two tracks saw him emerge as a stakes champion, with his first Grade I coming in the Cash Call Futurity at Los Al.
Now that he joined sire City Zip and damsire A.P. Indy in the graded ranks, Improbable set out on his sophomore year. It is fair to say that his 2019 campaign was a mixed bag, though at the same time he did not run badly in most of his starts. His only win of the year came in the Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar against a small field, but he picked up a pair of seconds in Oaklawn's Grade II Rebel Stakes and Grade I Arkansas Derby en route to a berth in the Kentucky Derby. He was fourth in the Run for the Roses and sixth in the Preakness, but he did not lose by very many lengths in either start. The same rang true for the Grade II Pennsylvania Derby, where Improbable came in fourth but was close to the victor. It was only the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile where he did not fire, finishing up the race in sixth.
Though 2019 was not a prolific year for Improbable in the win department, he epitomized effort. Not far from the front at the wire most of the time, it was clear the class that had been so prevalent in his family had reached him, too. He just needed a little more to get those laurels.
That little more came when Improbable turned four. Following a good second in his return to the races in the Oaklawn Mile, Improbable began his run to the top of the older horse division. Reeling off wins in the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup, Whitney and Awesome Again Stakes, Improbable's streak saw him take over the front after either staying near the lead or coming from off the pace. It was a complete turnaround from one year earlier, and it set him up for the biggest race of the autumn: the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Trying the Keeneland main track for the first time, Improbable sought to make it four Grade I wins in a row. He was not far off from doing it. Only one horse beat him, and that was his stablemate and Kentucky Derby winner, Authentic. But even in defeat, Improbable gained victory. His showing in the Classic was the final ingredient needed to take the Eclipse Award for Champion Older Male, giving him the perfect ending to a fine season after the varying results that comprised 2019.
With his runner up effort in the Classic, Improbable completed his fifteen-race career. He netted seven wins and four seconds, and the record indicated how he tried his best on a race day. And it should be noted he lost to some good horses while coming in second. Authentic is one example, as is Omaha Beach, who beat Improbable in the Arkansad Derby. Whether it was an off or fast track, and whether he was in California, Kentucky or New York, Improbable would give all that he had. And that trait paid off for him handsomely.
He may have been called Improbable, but when it came to being competitive and winning races, he was anything but that.
As William Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet, "What's in a name?"