The Pacific Classic saw a brilliant run by the winner, Collected, but left us with a ton of questions about second place Arrogate.
Coming into the Del Mar meet, the newly crowned king of the Thoroughbred world was supposed to be a slam dunk for winning some big races and catapulting into the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November. But then he went into the starting gates and was exposed as mortal with a lackluster fourth place finish in the San Diego Handicap on July 22. In the seaside oval’s signature event Arrogate was a somewhat game but disappointing second in the Pacific Classic on August 19. That left us to wonder, is this four-year old son of Unbridled’s Song the second coming of Secretariat or was his four race roll beginning with the 2016 Traver’s Stakes a comet blazing across the night sky?
In an eight month stretch, Arrogate accumulated a $17 million dollar bankroll as he destroyed the best Thoroughbreds in the world. The last of those wins was a grueling but spectacular worst to first effort in the $10 million Dubai World Cup. Like any athlete, tough performances can take a lot out. After his last two races people are left to wonder is he still “the one” or is he over the proverbial hill.
“I think Dubai was a lot tougher on him than we realized,” says his hall of fame trainer Bob Baffert. “I should have never run him in the San Diego because he just was not ready. I have learned a lot about him after the last two races. I think he is a very special horse, but he is just not all the way back yet.”
The Pacific Classic loss was encouraging for his conditioner despite the defeat. Arrogate made a run in the final furlong to be a close second to a strong running Collected. The effort put in by Baffert’s “other” horse in the race was phenomenal and perhaps took a little of the sting out of the loss for California’s top trainer. The huge run by the speedy four-year old Collected also lends a little perspective to the final eighth of a mile by Arrogate.
“I feel a lot better about Arrogate now than I did after the San Diego,” says Baffert. “He lost to a very good horse that turned in an outstanding performance. I kind of knew from his pre-race body language Arrogate was not exactly right. For him to fight down the lane and come that close to winning tells me there is still something there.”
Always a master at winning when it counts the most, “Big Race Bob” is now challenged with getting Arrogate to the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November. Also run at Del Mar, concerns about him not liking the surface will have to be conquered if he hopes to re-coronate himself as the Thoroughbred king. Driven be challenges, if anyone can bring Arrogate back in Muhammad Ali fashion it is Baffert.
“He showed me something in the Pacific Classic and I think I can get him much better than that by the time the Breeders’ Cup gets here,” says Baffert. “I am in the same situation as I was with American Pharoah after the Travers in 2015. He is going to have to show me he is ready because I do not want to send him out if I don’t think he can win. We are going to let him relax for a little bit and maybe go to the beach or something. It is too early right now to tell, but I think I can get him a good 7 lengths better on this track. I take the blame for getting him beat twice. I like challenges, that is part of what drives me.”
The Breeders’ Cup Classic is slated for November 4 at Del Mar. That may answer our question.