HOTSHOT 3YO Arrogate bested 2016 Horse of the Year California Chrome to win the first Pegasus World Cup Invitational last Saturday (Jan. 28) at Gulfstream Park, Florida, and earn a purse of $7 million.
Noble Bird took the lead in the early stages of the 1-1/8 mile (1,800 meters) race with co-favorites California Chrome and Arrogate running off the pace. Arrogate, under jockey Mike Smith, found some extra wind that allowed him to pull away down the stretch to win by 4-3/4 lengths in 1:47.61.
Shaman Ghost was second, $1.75 million prize, 3rd Neolithic, $1 million prize. California Chrome came in ninth for the poorest showing of his racing career.
Shaman’s Ghost owner Frank Stronach, by the way, was the creator of the Pegasus World Cup concept.
The Pegasus World Cup is unusual in that the “stakeholders”, horse owners interested in running in the race, themselves put up the “stakes” or prize money through a $1 million entry fee per slot. (This is where the term “stakes race” comes from.) Usually nowadays the purse money comes from pari-mutuel sales and/or sponsors.
The total purse raised for the Pegasus was $12 million. Some of the horse owners bought slots even before deciding if they had an entry or not.
Aside from its bonafides as the new “world’s richest race”, setting aside the Dubai World Cup in that respect, another arc of the 2017 Pegasus World Cup narrative was that it offered fans a rematch between Arrogate and California Chrome. However, it turned out to be more of a rout than a rematch.
Chrome won all save one of his races in 2016 and was named Horse of the Year. That race he lost was the Breeders Cup Classic, which was won by Arrogate, who, though not named HoY, was awarded champion 3YO Male of 2016 because he ran less races.
The Pegasus World Cup was California Chrome’s last race. He has been retired to stud at Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky and will stand for a $40,000 stud fee.
I’ve always fancied Arrogate over California Chrome.
Not to take away from Chrome’s impressive resume, but I had every confidence in Arrogate going into the Pegasus. Though lightly raced in comparison to his rival, in his brief career so far Arrogate has shown moves that are astounding for a horse his age and experience.
I am reminded of Bloodhorse columnist Steve Haskin’s words after Arrogate beat Chrome in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last Nov. 5 at Santa Anita Park:
“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.”
“Abnormal.” This was the first time I’d read that word in connection with a horse race. Perhaps the only other apt use of the word would have been in regard to the magnificent and legendary Secretariat, and I don’t believe Haskins would bandy about a word of that weight lightly.
Arrogate set a record in the Travers Stakes with a time of 1:59.36, the fastest in the 147 times the race has been held, as well as winning it by 13-1/2 lengths. Only two months later, he pulled off his Breeders’ Cup Classic rout of California Chrome. His earnings for those three races—the Travers, BC Classic, and Pegasus—stand at $11 million.
Arrogate’s trainer Bob Bafffert says he has no immediate plans for the horse, but is considering racing him in this year’s Breeders’ Cup and in next year’s Pegasus.
Pegasus was the divine horse of Greek mythology, ridden by the hero Bellerophon (not Hercules; the Disney film took liberties in that direction), and is an apt name for a race featuring the best racehorses in the world.
Arrogate and his continuing exploits makes him a Pegasus for our times.
Dr. Ortuoste is a California-based writer. Facebook: Gogirl Racing and Jenny Ortuoste, Twitter: @gogirlracing and @jennyortuoste, and Instagram: @jensdecember