Arrogate's Del Mar loss wasn't from health issue
July 25, 2017 3:06 AM
by Jon Lindo
There are no “free squares” when it comes to horse racing. The best horse in the world – Arrogate – proved that again last Saturday in the Grade II San Diego Handicap at Del Mar.
Coming off an incredible win in the $10 million Dubai World Cup after being hopelessly left at the start, the Bob Baffert trainee was sent off at five cents to the dollar in what was supposed to be a paid workout as a prep to the Grade I Pacific Classic on August 19. Arrogate was dull throughout, however, and failed to rally when beaten over 15 lengths on Saturday.
Baffert reported on Sunday that Arrogate “appears fine,” and the plan is to continue to point to the Pacific Classic as scheduled. The perplexing effort does bring some questions that will have to be answered sooner rather than later however, such as:
• Was the maximum effort required to win the Dubai World Cup the reason Arrogate came up flat last Saturday?
• Considering Arrogate was hard pressed to win an Allowance race at Del Mar before his dominating win in the Grade I Travers last August, could it be Arrogate simply does not care for the Del Mar main track?
• Since the Breeders’ Cup Classic is on the same Del Mar main track in November, will Arrogate be a vulnerable favorite on Breeders’ Cup Day?
• Will Arrogate even show up for the Breeders’ Cup Classic if he fails to fire in the Pacific Classic?
Much will be on the line in the Pacific Classic on Aug. 19, and horsemen from around the world will be watching closely. You should, too, especially if interested in the Breeders’ Cup future book wagers.
There was plenty to like about the first week at Del Mar.
Field size improved dramatically opening week as was hoped, making for interesting and potentially profitable wagering options for the horseplayers.
Both the main track and the turf course appear to be in great condition and very safe so far. The main track was a little on the dull side, especially in the stretch, which made it difficult for closers to accelerate and pass horses. The turf course with the inside rails at their normal setting provided a very wide course that helped closers find clear sailing and do well opening week.
Best of all, there were no reported horse deaths during opening week after over 20 horses suffered fatalities at the combined Del Mar summer and fall meets in 2016.
The turf rails will be moved to their 30 foot setting this week, and that placement tends to help horses with early speed. Don’t be surprised if the track profile changes on the turf this week.
The jockey colony seems rejuvenated with the switch to Del Mar. Rafael Bejarano looks energized after winning four races opening day (seven overall), and Flavien Prat won three races opening day to announce he is going hard to try to defend his title. Apprentice Evin Roman is riding at Del Mar for the first time, and after a 0-for-14 start getting to know the layout, Roman won six races over the weekend and continues to get live mounts from many top stables.
One other jockey note. Veterans Kent Desormeaux and Corey Nakatani are putting on a clinic riding the Del Mar turf. Both are riding as well as ever.
For those looking for a life-changing score, there is a Pick Six carryover of $96,599 going into the Wednesday card, and you can also pick up an additional $89,338 from the jackpot carryover pool if you are holding the only winning ticket. That will pay for plenty of Del Margaritas!
It was not all butterflies and lollipops at Del Mar opening week. From a fan experience standpoint, Del Mar continues on a daily basis having trouble keeping the elevators and escalators in working order. There has been at least one elevator and/or escalator broken each day so far, and to see many old-timers having to climb the stairs to get to the Turf Club opening day just wasn’t right given the prices they pay for the privilege.
On the backstretch, the track kitchen most employees use on a daily basis did not pass inspection prior to the start of the meet and is closed. There is a temporary food stand for the backstretch workers, but those hard working horsemen deserve better.
On Thursday, security failed to show up to open the gates to the main track for training at the scheduled 4:30 a.m. start time. Trainer Jeff Mullins used bolt-cutters to get the gate open and avoid a potential problem of horses backed up in a confined space waiting to train.
These are all fixable problems that in part can be attributed to the quick turnaround from the San Diego County Fair to the start of the Del Mar summer meet. Let’s hope everything is resolved and goes smoothly not only this week but up to and throughout the fall meet where the Breeders’ Cup will be held Nov. 3-4.
Play of the Day
Wednesday, Race 3 – Speak Up Sailor (8-post). Del Mar offers incentives to try to lure horses from out-of-state, including a 30% purse bonus for their first starts at the track. Speak Up Sailor held her own vs. better back east, has good tactical speed, and a solid jockey/trainer combo in Desormeaux/Hess. She makes the money run on Wednesday.