HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – 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 ¾ 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 ½ 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.
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 ½ 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 earning a 116 Beyer on a day where Gulfstream Park set their all-time handle record of $40.217 million.
“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.
Order of finish: Arrogate, Shaman Ghost, Neolithic, Keen Ice, War Story, Noble Bird, Semper Fortis, Breaking Lucky, California Chrome, Prayer for Relief, War Envoy and Eragon.
Bob Baffert (trainer Arrogate, 1st): “Yeah. I thought he might be on the lead. You know Mike, he was pretty comfortable there.
“He broke well, as well as he could. He just ran his race. I kept waiting for the matchup with Chrome, but he just didn’t bring his race today. It’s too bad.”
“We expected to win, but he got a little tired at the end., He probably needed it badly.”
Mark Casse (trainer Noble Bird, 6th): “We did all we could do. That’s the only way he can run. What a good horse Arrogate is. We were setting some fractions and he was just sitting there lapping.”
Todd Pletcher (trainer Keen Ice, 4th, and Neolithic, 3rd): “For Neolithic we wanted to establish some position into the first turn and we wanted possibly to make the lead if he could the right way. When he didn’t we thought he got into the spot we needed to be. I thought he ran really well.”
“Keen Ice got a little further back than we wanted. It seemed like it took him awhile to get on track. Finally in the last eighth of a mile he finished up well. It was one of things we were concerned about him was Gulfstream at a mile and eighth is probably not his perfect distance. He really is a mile and a quarter horse. It takes him awhile to get going. But I think he ran really well.”
“The winner is very good. We were hoping to maybe beat him to the punch the first turn and take a little dirt on him. But he got into a good spot and Mike [Smith] was able to move him out in the clear on the backside. He was too good.”
Dale Romans (trainer Prayer for Relief, 10th): “I think that we watched a fabulous horse race. My horse is an old horse who tried. He ran around there and it looks like he came back good. We knew we were up against it but bigger than that, this thing worked what Frank [Stronach] did. It’s one of the most enjoyable days I’ve ever participated in in horse racing.”
Art Sherman (trainer California Chrome, 9th): “It looks like he scrambled away from there and couldn’t get his footing. It looked like he wasn’t getting a hold of the racetrack, like maybe his feet were getting out from under him. I don’t know why, he worked good over it. I need to talk to Victor and go back to the barn to make sure he’s alright.”
“It’s been an unbelievable journey with him, even in defeat. You have such a good run. Not every horse can keep the record up like he has.”
Victor Espinoza (jockey California Chrome, 9th): “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. I sent him from there to get position but I didn’t want to get too wide, and I was perfect. I was just third and so nice and at the five-eighths pole I didn’t feel like I had that power. There wasn’t enough gas in there. He was empty. 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, sound. There’s nothing we can do. Honestly, there’s nothing I can tell you I could have done different. He was just empty today. At the first turn I thought I was good but when we hit the five-eighths, he just completely shut down. I just couldn’t keep up with the ones in front of me. He just started backing up and just wasn’t the same. It looks like he’s OK. Sound-wise I think he’s good. He’s done a lot. Sometimes he’s going to throw in one of those bad races and one of those bad times was today.”
Jose Ortiz (jockey Shaman Ghost, 2nd): “I had a perfect trip. That’s what we wanted to do, kind of be in the second group mid-pack and it worked out well. When I saw California Chrome at the half-mile pole getting done, I knew I had a good chance to run second or maybe win, but Arrogate drew off so I knew I got second. My horse was running really, really hard underneath of me and I couldn’t get even close. In the end, [Arrogate jockey] Mike [Smith] wrapped up but it was a huge effort by my horse. I’m really, really impressed with how he ran. It was my first time on him and it was a great training job by Mr. Jerkens. I have to thank Mr. [Frank] Stronach and Jimmy for giving me this opportunity.”
Luis Saez (jockey War Envoy, 11th): “My horse stumbled when he broke from the gate. He tried to break so fast, he’d been running on the turf and that’s why he stumbled. He made a nice move at the 5/8 pole, but that was it.”
Mike Smith (jockey Arrogate, 1st): “Once I got out going into the far turn I knew we were going to be very tough to beat. He had a lot of run today and I was very happy. As far as winning the world’s richest race, I’m absolutely numb.”
John Velazquez (jockey Neolithic, 3rd): “Perfect. He didn’t break as good as I wanted and I had to use him. I put him in a nice position going into the first turn. He was pretty good on the first turn but once we got to the backstretch he got into the bridle and that was it. He ran as good as he could today.”
Source: Gulfstream Park