Arrogate is rewriting the rules of horse racing
Last Saturday March Madness immersed our eyes, ears and hearts with can’t miss entertainment.
Oregon clinching its first Final Four since 1939, Gonzaga traversing uncharted territory, berthing its first ever Final Four appearance. The basketball we witnessed Saturday, and throughout the weekend was undoubtedly worthy of a Hollywood nod.
But another cinematic-esque masterpiece was unfolding early Saturday that may have changed a completely different sport forever.
Arrogate, the name you’ll soon be likening to designations such as Secretariat, California Chrome and American Pharoah won the 2017 Dubai World Cup, leaving trainers, jockeys and fans alike in utter awe.
It wasn’t that the horse racing superstar from Juddmonte Farms won the race, but rather how the incredible, unflappable equine pulled it off.
The four-year old colt trained by the golden touch of Bob Baffert completely missed the break during the start of the $10 million-dollar Grade-1 race Saturday falling to dead-last by the first furlong. With hall of famer Mike Smith aboard, Arrogate calmly but swiftly gathered steam and used the outside at the turn and the stretch to mount his comeback, galloping past the leader Gun Runner, eventually beating his American counterpart by 2 ¼ lengths, finishing at 2:02.15 in the mile-and-a-quarter race.
The finish was improbable, and worthy of a once-in-a-lifetime endorsement in such a high-caliber race as the Dubai World Cup is.
“‘When they turned for home, I told myself ‘If he wins, this is the best horse we've seen since Secretariat,'” Baffert told reporters in Dubai after the race.
Baffert is the last source to use hyperbole in this sport.
The trainer of 2015 Triple-Crown and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner American Pharoah, Baffert has trained some of the best horses in the history of the sport. But unlike American Pharoah, Arrogate never became that household name, due in large part to his non-participation in America’s triple crown races, including the Kentucky Derby. Instead the son of Unbridled’s Song put his name on the horse racing map-forcing more and more to notice his dominance-when he took down the field of the 2016 Travers Stakes at Saratoga in which the 11-1 odd horse smoked a field that featured 2016 Preakness Stakes Champion Exaggerator and 2016 Belmont Stakes Winner Creator. Arrogate bested his 2nd place stablemate American Anthem in New York that day by a surreal 13 ½ lengths. He ran a track-record 1:59.36.
Arrogate then went on to slay America’s darling California Chrome in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic, then flew down to Gulfstream Park to handle business in the inaugural 2017 Pegasus World Cup, where he once again outclassed Chrome to take the crown in the ‘world’s richest race.’
Boasting an 8-1 career record, Arrogate is pioneering a new superstar paradigm that does not involve success, or even appearances in the Triple Crown. While most may have simply dismissed names like Nyquist, Chrome and Pharoah sans Kentucky Derby, Arrogate refuses to let you be insensible to his foot (or horseshoe) print on the sport despite him bypassing the three most well-known races in the United States.
Arrogate will more than likely be shut down for a while, maybe even into late summer when a prep race will call his name prior to the fall for an almost guaranteed revisit to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. But that doesn’t mean his name will be one you will likely forget in the meantime.
It is no secret that horse racing needs a shot in the arm. Synonymous with the geriatric and retired more than the young and chic, the equine pastime needs a superstar that can capture the imagination of a wide-spectrum audience that will watch with enthusiasm beyond that first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs.
And when statements like ‘the greatest race horse I’ve ever seen’ are thrown around in an unswerving abundance, Arrogate may just be that stimulus the sport has been seeking for all these years.