Arrogate: Heavy Lies The Crown

August 26, 2017 10:35am

On August 22, 2016, a grey locomotive parted the Saratoga air giving notice a new star was in our midst. After coming in 3rd in his first race, the son of Unbridled’s Song quietly broke his maiden and went on to win two allowance races before being shipped to Saratoga to compete in the $1.25 million Grade 1 Travers Stakes. With Hall of Famer, Mike Smith, in the irons, the duo put on a record breaking performance that had the crowd on their feet, wildly cheering the history they had just witnessed.


The Bob Baffert trainee won by an astonishing 13 ½ lengths over stablemate American Freedom while creating a new track record time: 1:59.36 for 1 ¼ miles (General Assembly’s time of 2:00 had been set in the 1979 Travers.) The thoroughbred world celebrated a new star who exhilarated our world of the promise of incredible performances to come.


We wouldn’t see the Juddmonte grey colt again until 11/5/16, in the Breeders' Cup Classic. California Chrome appeared to be home free until Arrogate surged up beside him and won by half a length. The two best horses in the world would soon meet again in the inaugural edition of The Pegasus Invitational Cup at Gulfstream Park. The $15 million dollar race would draw 12 horses but all eyes were on Baffert’s gray and Sherman’s chestnut colt. But, it was Arrogate who stole the show in track record time.


On to Dubai and Arrogate’s third world title! The $12 million dollar Dubai World Cup. The Unbridled’s Song colt broke slowly, got squeezed between horses early, raced a talented field and managed to catch up with Gun Runner, who looked like he had an almost perfect trip ... until Arrogate swept past the chestnut stallion and won by 2 ½ lengths.


After the race, Arrogate’s jockey, Mike Smith said, ”After missing the break completely, I had no choice but to ride him like Zenyatta ... just let him collect himself.” Smith knows very well how to come from far behind to win a race. Still, I thought he had too much to overcome but I was gratefully proven wrong.


Arrogate was lauded as a horse for the ages. Some even compared him to Secretariat and Man ‘O War. He was this century’s Big Horse and we expected him to continue to trounce his competition. Then came Del Mar ...


Prior to the San Diego Stakes at Del Mar, which was his first race back after Arrogate’s stunning performance in Dubai, and as the number one ranked horse in the world, he entered the starting gate for the San Diego Stakes at 1-20 odds. The talented colt’s reputation produced too many digits to evenly show up on the boards. That was the high point of the afternoon. No one could have predicted the 4-year old’s behavior. After his 4th place finish, Smith was at a loss for words … ”He just was flat, so flat. He just didn't pick it up."

“So, I dropped him inside again and cut the corner, then wheeled him outside once more and tried to get something from him. But he was just flat. He wasn’t trying so I just wrapped up on him and got him home safe. The San Diego was won by Accelerate (by Lookin At Lucky). This will go down as one of the biggest upsets in Del Mar.


On August 19, 2017, the fans were out to see if the world’s richest and highest ranking horse would bounce back to greatness. During the Grade 1 Pacific Classic, Arrogate did not display the lackadaisicalness he showed in the San Diego. There were flashes of brilliance but none sustained. He finished a close second to stablemate Collected. For a trainer who just ran 1-2 in a grade 1 race, Bob Baffert was anything but smiles. But he and jockey, Mike Smith were perplexed with their superstar horse. Smith said, "He just doesn’t seem to get over the top of the Del Mar track for some odd reason. He just doesn’t seem to push off of it. I don’t know why. He is certainly not running his 'A' race. He’s probably running a 'B' and getting outrun.”


Arrogate had dominated the NTRA (National Thoroughbred Racing Association) this year but in the most recent edition, Gun Runner, who just won the Grade 1 Whitney, has taken over Arrogate’s Number 1 spot. Arrogate is not Number 2.


There are a few reasons for Arrogate’s unlikely performances at Del Mar. One, less likely could be the Dubai bounce. More likely though, especially after reading Mike Smith’s comments, is that his horse is having difficulty with the surface. Considering the Breeders’ Cup is at Del Mar, this could be a huge handicap. If anyone can fix this Baffert can, so don’t be surprised if we see the old Arrogate in the Breeders' Cup. One can hope!


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Meet Mary Dixon Reynolds

Mary Dixon Reynolds’ passion for horses began at an early age. She grew up riding, showing and training Arabians. The great Curlin brought her into horse racing and the celebrated filly, Rachel Alexandra, solidified her love of the sport. The amateur handicapper found beginner's luck during her first outing to a racetrack, the now-defunct Colonial Downs near Richmond, Va.

From a small town in the the Tar Heel state, Mary Dixon studied English literature and journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for three years before graduating at Guilford College. She shares a passion for F. Scott Fitzgerald with her favorite writer, the late William L. Nack, whose books she possesses and are well worn from rereading.

Mary Dixon first appeared on Horse Racing Nation as a guest columnist, writing articles about California Chrome, his fan base, and the great filly Songbird. She aspires to bring new people into our sport and to promote thoroughbred aftercare, recognizing that for our sport to thrive, we must take care of our athletes after they leave the track

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