Kudos to Arrogate, who handed the favorite California Chrome a stunning defeat and his first loss of the year in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Gr. 1) held last Nov. 5 at Santa Anita Park.
California Chrome led for most of the 1-1/4 mile (2,000 meters) race only to be overtaken close to the wire by second choice Arrogate, who moved up on the outside from third position under jockey Mike Smith to win by half a length.
Bloodhorse columnist Steve Haskin lauded Arrogate’s victory in no uncertain terms.
“In the past three years,” Haskin said in his Nov. 6 piece, “what California Chrome has accomplished has been extraordinary. What American Pharoah accomplished was historic and spectacular.
“What Arrogate has accomplished in the Travers and Breeders’ Cup Classic has been, well, abnormal, meaning there is no way to gauge the true magnitude of his accomplishment because there has never been anything with which to compare it.”
That is high, even exaggerated, praise indeed, but I don’t think Haskin is laying it on too thick.
The BC Classic was only Arrogate’s sixth lifetime start and his second stakes race. In the first stakes race he ran, the Travers at Saratoga last August, he won by 13-1/2 lengths and stopped the clock at 1:59.36 for the 1-1/4 mile (2,000 meters) distance, shattering General Assembly’s 2:00 track record set in 1979, 37 years ago.
According to Forbes’ Guy Martin, in an article he wrote about the 2016 Travers, a mysterious track pundit calling himself the Bluegrass Wise Man, a Kentucky horseman and owner, placed his confidence in Arrogate even before the Travers run. “He’s Kentucky-bred, first, which I, as a Kentuckian, would say has to do with the superior limestone-based minerality in our water and in the fine nourishment that the horses get here.
“But over and above the basics, he’s just a fine horse with an amazing body and a staggering set of lungs. We can talk about breeding, but genetic accidents happen. This was one of those accidents.”
When Martin asked about Arrogate’s chances in the Breeders’s Cup, Bluegrass Wise Man replied: “Wide open now. Fear this horse… He may be Chrome’s match.” Prophecy fulfilled.
Haskin, meanwhile, compared Arrogate’s physical condition to Secretariat’s: “I don’t know if I’ve seen a horse with an engine like this colt’s since Big Red. No matter what he does he never gets tired. His heart measurement and lung capacity must be off the charts.”
Haskin’s incredulous remarks make for iconic racing writing: “A 3YO with so little racing foundation and coming off a two-month layoff simply isn’t supposed to do what Arrogate did [in the BC Classic]… A 3YO making his sixth lifetime start and only his second stakes appearance is not supposed to pull off a victory like this, not against California Chrome, making up three to four lengths and coming home his final two quarters in :24-1/5 and :24 flat.”
Arrogate’s Breeders’ Cup win was worth $6 million for owner Juddmonte Farms of Prince Khalid Abdullah. It was trainer Bob Baffert’s third Classic win in a row, after American Pharoah in 2015 and Bayern in 2014.
2nd California Chrome, 3rd Keen Ice, 4th Hoppertunity (also trained by Baffert). Time: 2:00.11 (:23.28, :47.15, 1:10.96).
For those wanting a piece of the genetic cocktail that resulted in Arrogate, his dam is up for auction in the Fasig-Tipton sale that began Nov. 7.
Arrogate, by Unbridled Song, is the first foal of Bubbler, who was sired by Distorted Humor. Bubbler is being sold in foal to Into Mischief. She won six of her nine career starts, including three stakes wins.
Also for sale is California Chrome’s dam, Love the Chase (sired by Not For Love). She is in foal to leading sire Tapit.
Dr. Ortuoste is a California-based writer. Facebook: Gogirl Racing and Jenny Ortuoste, Twitter: @gogirlracing and @jennyortuoste, and Instagram: @jensdecember.