Arrogate was frequently called the “greatest horse in the world” after his dominating win in the $12 million Pegasus Invitational at Gulfstream Park in January, followed up by his incredible $10 million Dubai World Cup victory in March when overcoming an impossible start.
The big grey colt hit a bump in the road in the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on July 22, however, when he was never a factor at five cents on the dollar and ended up fourth, beaten by double digits by Accelerate.
Which horse shows up in the $1 million Pacific Classic this Saturday?
Reasons to believe Arrogate will return to his best form:
• Stretching back out to 1-1/4 miles. Arrogate has a long stride and never seems to get tired, which makes him more imposing as the distances increase.
• He may have needed the July 22 outing. Coming off that gut-wrenching effort in the Dubai World Cup, trainer Bob Baffert admitted Arrogate was not 100% cranked up for the San Diego, and it takes a very fit horse to win over the deep tiring Del Mar main track. With that race under his belt and good works since, he could be set to go now.
• Arrogate needs to run a big race over the Del Mar dirt to prove that last race may have been a fluke and to give his connections the confidence to run him back in the Breeders Cup Classic over the same surface in November.
Reasons to believe Arrogate may struggle again:
• Horses seem to either love the loose main track at Del Mar or simply hate it. There does not appear to be a middle ground. It could be that Arrogate simply hates the surface.
True, he won at Del Mar last summer, but he beat a very moderate horse named Kristo in a three-horse field by less than two lengths and then went to Saratoga to win the Travers by double-digits while setting a track record. He may have won last year by default.
• Trainer Bob Baffert’s horses continue to struggle with the surface. In addition to Arrogate, top Baffert-trained runners like Serengeti, Drefong, and Diamondsandpearls have all disappointed at low odds in Stakes races at this meet. The Baffert stable has also been noticeably light in recent 2-year-old Maiden races compared to recent years considering the number of talented juveniles in that barn.
• Rival Accelerate is the only horse to have beaten Arrogate twice. The way he won the San Diego Handicap by daylight says a lot about his fondness for the surface. He is unproven at 10 furlongs but being a course specialist will help him carry his speed a long way.
• Collected, a stablemate to Arrogate, has been dominating lesser stock since coming off a layoff earlier this year. Originally slated to try the turf during this meet, Baffert has called an audible after Collected has worked so well on the dirt here. Some in the know say he is training even better than Arrogate.
Entries are scheduled to be drawn late Tuesday afternoon, with five horses (Arrogate, Accelerate, Collected, Curlin Road, and Donworth) listed as probable and a couple of others listed as possible. With the Breeders Cup at Del Mar November 3-4, this will be a very intriguing edition of the Pacific Classic.
A couple of incidents put the focus on the Del Mar stewards on Friday. In Race 6, leader Unobtainable drifted out late and bumped a rallying Big Bad Gary. Unobtainable held on by a neck, and the stewards ruled that while Unobtainable did come out and bump Big Bad Gary, the incident did not alter the order of finish and there would be no change.
In the next race, the Solana Beach Stakes, jockey Kent Desormeaux pushed his way off the rail with Moonless Sky, bumping and impeding How Unusual. Moonless Sky just failed to catch Majestic Heat and ended up second beaten a nose, while How Unusual just held on to be a distant third. Again, the stewards acknowledged the interference, but invoked the same rule that the incident did not alter the order of finish and there was no change made.
The stewards did suspend jockey Kent Desormeaux for three days.
Based on the way the rules in California are currently written, I do believe the stewards made the right interpretation in both cases. However, depending on the stewards to be soothsayers and know where horses were supposed to finish makes for a very grey line when determining placements.
It seems long past due to review, simplify, and define the rules of racing so stewards, horseplayers, owners, and trainers alike know what to expect when the inquiry sign is lit. As it stands I have no clue.
Top horse play
Del Mar on Wednesday. Race 2 – Candyman Garret (post 2). Two-year-old with New Mexico connections was bet like a good thing in debut but ran into a buzzsaw named Texas Wedge. A good race over the track is huge, so no mistakes on Wednesday.