Beyer beware on Arrogate

Beyer beware on Arrogate

August 22, 2017 3:00 AM
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I gleaned several important facts from Arrogate’s second place finish in Saturday’s $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar.

For one, his defeat at 3-5 odds perfectly explains why I never bet on any horse at sub $1-1 odds! The simple truth is too many races turn out to be more complicated than they appear on paper. Yet, it is sad to report how often experienced horseplayers tend to forget how many historic champions have lost races they seemed to have over a barrel, often at absurdly low odds. Perfect examples include Man o’ War, Secretariat and Seattle Slew!

While Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert strongly believed we were going to see the real Arrogate in the Pacific Classic, even he was unable to predict what would happen. Baffert was so convinced Arrogate was ready to fire, he privately told several media members: “He’ll crush them!”

If anyone was crushed by Arrogate’s performance it was Baffert, who simultaneously trained Collected to win Saturday’s race. Yet, I doubt anyone has ever seen a more disappointed winning trainer on TV or in person.

Arrogate actually ran “OK” finishing second while earning a 114 Beyer Speed Figure. But none of us – Baffert included – got to see the Arrogate who had been so impressive in winning four of the world’s most prestigious races that he was being hailed as “the best horse to come along in decades.”

Never one to shrink from self-criticism, Baffert blamed himself for the “training mistakes,” he made with Arrogate’s preparation for the colt’s dismal fourth place finish (at 1-20 odds) in Del Mar’s San Diego Handicap, July 22.

“I messed him up going into that race,” Baffert said. “But he did run a lot better (in the Pacific Classic), so I really don’t believe it was the Del Mar racing surface that got him beat.”

Maybe so, but as I watched Arrogate struggle to reach a smooth stride on the DMR backstretch, the rally he put in to finish a close second did not change my view that this colt is very uncomfortable on Del Mar’s racing surface.

His Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith conceded the point in post-race interviews. “I just couldn’t get him to comfortably settle into his best stride,” Smith said. “It could be that he just doesn’t like the track.”

Given his moderate performance in Saturday’s race and that Arrogate will be asked to face several highly regarded horses over the same Del Mar racing surface in the BC Classic, Baffert has two months to get him back in gear for that race at Del Mar, Nov. 4. “The extra time will help us,” Baffert said.

While that is something to root for, I make it 50-50 that Arrogate could be retired during the next month or so!

The reason is simple: To risk a third straight loss in the BCup – could negatively impact Arrogate’s extremely high sale value as an international breeding prospect.

Baffert, of course, will be the one to decide if his star colt can, in fact, recover his top form. Should the signs be positive – great! But, if they are mixed, or negative, I believe Baffert will decline to put this colt at risk.

The Travers

Looking 3,000 miles to the East, this coming Saturday historic Saratoga will be offering a stakes-loaded card focused on the 148th running of the $1.25 million Travers Stakes. This 1-1/4 mile race, often called The Mid-Summer Derby, has 13 prospective starters, including Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, who seems ready for a top try at moderate odds for trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velazquez.

Logical threats will include Chad Brown’s Preakness winner Cloud Computing, along with two more Pletcher trainees – Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit and Curlin stakes winner Outplay. Jim Dandy stakes winner Good Samaritan also is expected to contend along with Baffert’s improving West Coast, shipping in from, where else, the west coast. Post positions will be drawn later today, Tuesday, Aug. 22.

So far this year, the 3-year-old division has produced a long list of major winners who came back to lose their next starts. That is one reason why my minimal price guideline for a win bet will be at least 4-1, possibly higher. Yet, I do see potential value in the Travers’ Trifecta.

I intend to use Always Dreaming on top over five horses on the second and third levels: West Coast, Good Samaritan, Tapwrit, Cloud Computing and the ever present Irap. Should any of these five scratch, I will substitute Outplay as my fifth horse.

On a second Trifecta ticket, I will use the above five horses on the first and third levels, placing Always Dreaming in the middle. Each Trifecta ticket would cost $20 at $1 units.

Added Notes

Elate earned a 98 Beyer winning Saratoga’s Alabama stakes for 3-year-old fillies… Three juvenile maidens winners ran quite well on the weekend: Honorable Treasure on the grass at Saratoga and a pair of Baffert-trained juvenile first time starters at Del Mar, Zatter and St. Patrick’s Day.