Superman had his Kryptonite. Arrogate has the Del Mar main track.
The all-time North American money-earner at $17.3 million, Arrogate has shown his superiority at places like Meydan City in Dubai, Saratoga in New York, Gulfstream Park in Florida, and Santa Anita in California. It is at Del Mar where Arrogate appears very susceptible to defeat.
True, Arrogate won an Allowance race at Del Mar in the summer of 2016, but that was over a three-horse field and he was less than two lengths better than Kristo, a moderate claimer who has not won in ages.
The Bob Baffert trainee showed his true promise when shipped to Saratoga a year ago. He dominated his rivals in the Travers Stakes while breaking the 1-1/4 mile track record. He validated that form beating California Chrome on the square in the Breeders Cup Classic at Santa Anita last November, and for good measure he dominated that rival among others in the newly created $12 million Pegasus Invitational at Gulfstream Park in January.
The unbelievable run should have come to an end in March in the $10 million Dubai World Cup when Arrogate was hopelessly left at the start. He trailed the field early over the speed-favoring Meydan City main track, but simply looped his rivals to win again under wraps.
Then he returned to Del Mar.
Some excuses can be made for his very lackluster fourth in the San Diego Handicap July 22. He was coming off a layoff, did not have a work over the track prior to the race, and trainer Bob Baffert admitted he did not have Arrogate fully cranked while prepping for this past Saturday’s $1 million Pacific Classic.
His top stable put some serious work into Arrogate prior to the Pacific Classic, and jockey Mike Smith sent him hard from the gate to secure a good spot pressing stablemate Collected and San Diego Handicap winner Accelerate from the outside.
However, it was obvious entering the backstretch that Arrogate was not enjoying things, as he came off the bit (he usually pulls aggressively in his races) and Smith was forced to niggle at him and start riding as early as six furlongs from the wire.
Arrogate appeared doomed when dropping back even further around the far turn, but he did pick things up just a little through the final quarter mile and in fact was beaten just a half-length for all the money.
Mike Smith said Arrogate ran a “C+ race” and while he ran a bit better, he was still struggling with the surface. Stablemate Collected, who even the barn considered suspect going 10 furlongs, was able to hold on for the win over a surface he obviously loves.
What is next for Arrogate? Baffert stated on Sunday the big grey horse will be trained into the Breeders Cup Classic at Del Mar on Nov. 4 without the benefit of another race. The connections are hoping a fresher Arrogate will either get over the effects of the taxing win in Dubai and/or help enable him to handle the Del Mar main track.
It may the best way to try to defend his Breeders Cup Classic title, and maybe the Del Mar main track will change a bit during the cooler weather in November.
Then again, maybe they better hope it rains. I know they won’t change the venue for 2017.
It has not been the usual suspects as horseplayers look to back hot barns and avoid cold stables at the short Del Mar meet.
The reliable Peter Miller stable does have eight wins, but they also lead the backstretch with 85 starters so far for a strike rate of just 9%.
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer started the meet cold and has remained that way, with just four wins from 59 starters and a 7% win rate.
Other active barns struggling include Jeff Bonde (1-for-20), Vann Belvoir (1-for-19), and Eddie Truman (0-for-11) just to name a few.
Some relatively low profile outfits are doing well, such as Dean Pederson (3-for-6), Tom Proctor (5-for-12), William E. Morey (4-for-13), and Ian Kruljac (2-for-3).
On Thursday alone, trainers Reed Saldana, Mark Tsagalakis, and Andrew Lerner each saddled their first winners at Del Mar ever.
Much of the reason the percentage of winning favorites is so low (28.7%) is many of the barns that were so reliable at Santa Anita have struggled during the Del Mar meet. Don’t let a low profile barn stop you from going to the windows if your handicapping instincts suggest you make a play during the final two weeks of the summer meet.
Play of the Week
Del Mar, Friday in Race 5 – Camino de Estrella (3 post). Maiden from the cold Tim Yakteen stable had a perfect sprint prep on July 23. He is best around two turns and can help jump start the barn at what could be a fair price.