Arrogate couldn't Accelerate fast enough for San Diego Handicap at Del Mar
July 25, 2017 3:00 AM
by Steve Davidowitz
By now, the vast majority of racing fans know the amazingly talented Arrogate was soundly and unexpectedly defeated at 1-9 odds in the $300K San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on Saturday.
You also probably know Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith had no explanations for the 4-year-old colt’s poor fourth place finish. The best they could come up with is Arrogate was “flat,” in that he showed no spark during the 1-1/16 mile race.
On Sunday, Baffert said “nothing seems physically wrong with the horse. He looks and acts just fine.” Searching for answers, Baffert was quick to blame himself for Arrogate’s poor effort: “Maybe I just didn’t train him hard enough to be ready (for the race).”
Looking ahead, should Arrogate remain healthy, Baffert expects to point the world’s leading money winning racehorse for the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 19. “He will move forward with this race behind him,” Baffert promised.
Meanwhile, somewhat lost in this dramatic upset was this hidden fact: Accelerate, upset winner of the San Diego, actually had beaten Arrogate once before! That was when Accelerate finished second and Arrogate third in Arrogate’s career debut at Los Alamitos, 15 months ago.
Accelerate also is a better horse than many fans probably realize. After all, he’s now earned more than $580K while winning four of 12 starts, with three seconds and four thirds. Even so, trainer John Sadler seems unlikely to match Accelerate against Arrogate in the aforementioned Pacific Classic, given Sadler’s 4-year-old colt is not naturally suited to that race’s 1-1/4 mile distance. Instead, he probably will train and race him toward the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile, Nov. 4. Last year, Accelerate finished third in that BC event; this year it will be run at Del Mar where Accelerate is now three for three.
Beyond the disappointments Baffert and Smith (along with thousands of bettors) endured in the San Diego, the next day the two Hall of Famers combined to win a dramatic renewal of the $300K Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga, 3,000 miles away. The winning filly was five time G-1 winner Abel Tasman.
Going 1-1/8 miles on Saratoga’s main dirt track, Smith used all his acute sense of timing to launch a strong early rally to go from sixth to first on the backstretch because, as he put it, “the pace was too slow just to lay back there.”
Then as Abel Tasman was facing a stiff, stretch-long challenge from Elate – an improving Billy Mott trained filly – Smith moved his mount sharply inward, pinning rival jockey Jose Ortiz inches away from the rail, which helped the Baffert-trained filly eke out a narrow victory to survive a stewards’ inquiry.
Beyond all of that, here were some important trends I noticed while handicapping races at both tracks during the first several days of their respective 2017 meets.
As expected, top trainers Chad Brown and Todd Pletcher have shipped plenty fit and ready horses to SAR. The same seems true for Linda Rice, Kiaran McLaughlin, George Weaver and the relatively unknown Horacio DePaz. All sent out live contenders ready to fire, some at good odds.
Veteran jockeys John Velazquez, Irad Ortiz Jr. and his brother Jose Ortiz are continuing the success they have enjoyed in their respective careers; while relatively unheralded Ricardo Santana Jr. seems a jockey to watch for his penchant to put over longshots, especially in route races on dirt or turf.
At Del Mar
Trainers Peter Miller, Simon Callaghan, Vladmir Cerin, Richard Baltas and William Morey have shipped into Del Mar with several fit horses as did Peter Eurton, who won three races on the Sunday card and saddled several others to run well during the first five days.
As expected, jockeys Rafael Bejarano and Keith Desormeaux have started off well at DMR; but, the real eye-openers were the fine performances turned in by apprentice Evin Roman and the improving Flavien Pratt. Roman seems far more versatile than one might expect, given his relative inexperience, and Pratt has performed as if he is going to be one of the top turf riders on the SoCal circuit.
As for significant running style trends: Saratoga’s main dirt racing surface had a distinct inside speed bias on its Friday opening day card; but the trend was muted a bit through the weekend. Del Mar – with its improved banking on its turns – has made it easier for horses to rally a bit wider than last year. Meanwhile, experienced turf performers seem to hold advantages on both SAR and DMR’s turf courses, regardless of distance.
The $1 million Haskell Invitational is at Monmouth Park next Sunday, while DMR will host six stakes this week worth a combined $1.15 million and SAR will run 10 stakes worth a combined $2.25 million, including Saturday’s $600K Jim Dandy, in which Pletcher’s Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming is likely to meet Brown’s Preakness winner, Cloud Computing.