Arrogate romps in Pegasus World Cup

by | Jan 29, 2017 | Breaking, National news, Racing

It was close back in November in the Breeders’ Cup, but not yesterday, as Arrogate romped to victory in the Pegasus World Cup. Photo by Michael McInally/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup.

From a Gulfstream Park release

Juddmonte Farm’s Arrogate left little doubt about his status as the world’s No. 1 racehorse Saturday at Gulfstream Park, overpowering his 11 rivals, including two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome, while capturing the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) by 4 3/4 lengths.

Favored at 4-5, Arrogate registered his second straight decision over California Chrome, the 6-5 second choice whom he had defeated by a half-length in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita Nov. 5.

”You know, what? He’s a superior horse. He’s just a great horse,” exclaimed Arrogate’s trainer Bob Baffert, who watched the inaugural running of the world’s richest race on the large screens in Gulfstream’s walking ring with his wife, Jill, and their son, Bode.

California Chrome, who was honored as the 2016 Horse of the Year a week earlier during the Eclipse Awards Dinner at Gulfstream, was unable to offer a serious challenge, fading to ninth after stalking the early pace in his last race before entering stud duty at Taylor Made Farm in Nicholasville, KY. The 7-year-old star, who received boisterous cheers from the Gulfstream crowd while being led to the saddling area and during the post parade, was beaten 29 1/2 lengths by 4-year-old Arrogate.

“It looks like he was scrambling and couldn’t get his footing,” said California Chrome’s trainer Art Sherman, whose 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner broke from the far-outside No. 12 post position.

After the race, Sherman discovered water on Chrome’s right knee, which may have prevented him from delivering his normal performance.

Breaking from the rail, Arrogate was able to save ground and closely track pacesetter Noble Bird on the first turn and along the backstretch while rating kindly for jockey Mike Smith. California Chrome, who was asked for speed by Victor Espinoza and raced four and five wide around the first turn, attained a stalking position outside Arrogate and Neolithic on the backstretch. Just when the rematch between the two stars was expected to develop, California Chrome failed to respond to Espinoza’s urging and began losing ground as Arrogate began to advance on a tiring Noble Bird and Neolithic on the turn leaving the backstretch.

As California Chrome continued to drop back, Arrogate coasted to the lead leaving the turn into the homestretch and drew away to a commanding victory. Stronach Stables’ Shaman Ghost made a strong run through the stretch to finish second under Jose Ortiz, 3 1/2 lengths ahead of Neolithic and jockey John Velazquez. The Todd Pletcher-trained Neolithic finished 2 3/4- lengths ahead of stablemate Keen Ice.

Arrogate ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.61.

“Once I got out going into the far turn, I knew we were going to be tough to beat. He had a lot of run today, and I was very happy,” Smith said. “As far as winning the world’s richest race, I’m absolutely numb.”

Arrogate earned a $7 million payday while winning the innovative event, for which 12 stakeholders each put up $1 million to participate.

The Pegasus World Cup was Arrogate’s first start since winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic, while California Chrome had tuned up with a 12-length victory in an ungraded race at Los Alamitos Dec. 17. Baffert went into Saturday’s race with a lot of confidence but did expect a stronger challenge from California Chrome.

“I kept waiting for the matchup with Chrome, but he just didn’t bring his race today. It’s too bad,” Baffert said. “We expected to win, but he got a little tired at the end. He probably needed it badly.”

Espinoza said California Chrome was “empty” when he called on him on the backstretch.

“He faded by the half-mile pole. I was pretty much done by that point, but the whole race, he never really got into the race,” Espinoza said. “…I hope he’s OK. It looks like he’s OK. He might have bled or something. Who knows what happened? The main thing is he came out of the race good and sound.”

Big Brown is the only horse to win from the No. 12 post position in a two-turn race since the Gulfstream track was reconfigured to span 1 1/8 miles in 2006, capturing the 2008 Florida Derby (G1) by five lengths in front-running fashion.

When California Chrome began to falter in the stretch, it gave Ortiz a boost of confidence aboard Shaman Ghost.

“I knew I had a good chance to run second or maybe win, but Arrogate drew off, so I knew I got second,” Ortiz said. “My horse was running really, really hard underneath me and I couldn’t even get close (to Arrogate).”

Velazquez was pleased with the performance of late-developing Neolithic, who was stepping into Grade 1 company after winning an allowance race at Gulfstream Dec. 14.

“He was pretty good on the first turn and once we got to the backstretch he got into the bridle and that was it. He ran as good as he could today,” Velazquez said.

Arrogate’s victory came at the venue where his trainer notched his first major Thoroughbred stakes win after switching from training Quarter Horses in the early 1990s. Baffert saddled Thirty Slews for a triumph in the 1992 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).

While California Chrome will be heading to Kentucky to begin his career as a stallion, Arrogate will remain in training for a highly anticipated 2017 racing season.

The card, which also featured several other stakes, registered record handle of $40.2 million — the most ever at Gulfstream Park and some $8 million clear of last year’s Florida Derby card, the previous record-holder.