If you missed Arrogate’s amazing victory in the $10 million Dubai World Cup on Saturday, you missed one of the best performances by a racehorse in many years.
Off last after being bothered at the start, Arrogate eventually passed all 13 rivals with a strong and steady outside rally that saw him make up about 20 lengths before beating second place finisher Gun Runner by nearly three full lengths.
Arrogate’s victory in this race – contested at approximately 1-1/4 miles – earned the son of Unbridled’s Song $6 million. That pushed him above $17 million in career earnings to pass California Chrome and become the all-time leader for moneys won. This, in only the eighth start of Arrogate’s exciting career.
In the Meydan grandstand, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert was as astonished as most of us who saw the race on TVG and/or the NBC Sports Network. With a camera trained on him during the race, Baffert conceded defeat about three seconds after Arrogate was pinched back to last.
Later, after Arrogate pulled off his extraordinary victory, Baffert said, with the emotion of a man who has seen it all, but acting as if he was going to the winners’ circle for the first time, “When he missed the break, I gave him no chance at all.
“Right then and there, I got mad at myself for bringing him all the way here. But, when I watched him rally and actually win it,” said the man who trained American Pharoah to a sweep of the 2015 Triple Crown, “I couldn’t help myself think that’s the greatest horse I’ve ever seen run. In all honesty, I really can’t believe that he won. That is a truly great horse.”
Baffert concluded: “When they turned for home, I told myself, if he wins, (Arrogate) is the best horse we’ve seen since Secretariat!”
Was he really that good?
From my perspective, which includes witnessing most of Secretariat’s races in 1972 and ‘73, including his spectacular Triple Crown victories, I believe Arrogate is not quite up to Secretariat’s level; but, he certainly is one of the top 10 horses I have ever seen.
To me, Secretariat is the Babe Ruth of horseracing. But, I also have high regards for 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed; five-time Horse of the Year Kelso; the great 1975 filly, Ruffian and 1979 Handicap Champion Spectacular Bid. Likewise, I believe three-time Horse of the Year Forego; ‘77 T-Crown winner Seattle Slew and two-time Horse of the Year Cigar belong on my top 10 list, along with 2004-miler Ghostzapper, who ran exceptionally fast several times on the Beyer Speed Figure scale.
Although my long time friend Andy Beyer does not officially do Speed Figures for races in foreign countries, he and his valued associate Randy Moss made a set of unofficial Figs for Saturday’s dirt racing in Dubai. I am grateful to Andy for sharing that Arrogate scored a respectable 115 Beyer Fig. in the World Cup.
As I told Andy, I estimated a near identical Fig. for the World Cup similarly calculated in reference to second place finisher Gun Runner. Yet, I strongly believe this was one race where the true quality of the performance could not be measured by the final clocking of 2:02.33, or by any speed figure.
Keep in mind, the early fractional splits were moderate, which gave the leaders – and horses within a few lengths of the lead – an advantage against Arrogate’s deep closing rally. Remember also, despite racing very wide, Arrogate made up so many lengths to the mile marker while many of the contending horses in front of him were picking up their own rates of speed. Such sustained acceleration is extremely rare, especially when it continues all the way to the finish.
Arrogate, of course, owes Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith a big thank you – given how he patiently re-gathered the colt after the horrible start. Moreover, Arrogate was brushed in the upper stretch, yet under Smith’s steady guidanc, the colt resolutely lengthened his remarkable stride during the final 200 yards.
Crossing the wire, Arrogate looked so much the best, I had to remind myself he was winning this race on an unfamiliar, slightly muddied track, 10,000 miles from home, while forced to produce a stretch running style so different from what he had shown at any time in his six prior victories.
Bottom line, this was a truly remarkably great performance, sure to be remembered for a long, long time.
Added Notes: Fast and Accurate, longshot winner of the $500,000 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park on Saturday did not impress. But Hence, winner of Sunday’s $800,000 Sunland Derby, acted as if he belongs in the Kentucky Derby… This Saturday, several promising Derby contenders will be seen in a pair of $1 million preps – the Louisiana Derby and Florida Derby. Stay tuned.
Correction: Last week I referred to Todd Pletcher as a Hall of Fame trainer. The word “future” should have been included as he is not there yet, though I think he will be one day.