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Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Arrogate, a leading contender for Horse of the Year along with California Chrome, is scheduled to kick off his four-year-old campaign in the San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita on New Year’s Day.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert made the decision after the gray son of Unbridled’s Song owned by Juddmonte Farms worked six furlongs Tuesday in a bullet 1:12.20, and entered Arrogate Thursday morning for the Grade 2 San Pasqual at 1 1/16 miles. Stablemate Hoffenheim worked with Arrogate Tuesday and was timed in 1:13.60.
“He really needed the work a week earlier,” Baffert said, referring to Arrogate’s seven furlong drill Dec. 21 in 1:24.80. “He went really well Tuesday, really easy. The (predicted) rain has me a little bit worried, but I didn’t want to be waiting too long (for the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Jan. 28 at GulfstreamPark) to put a race into him.
“The San Pasqual will be his hard work. From here on out with the rain, things are going to be spotty, so you’ve got to go. I want to get a race into him, but it’s not going to be easy. There are some nice horses in there (San Pasqual).”
Arrogate has won his last five starts including the Classic, in which he handed California Chrome a half-length defeat, ending a six-race winning streak for the popular California-bred son of Lucky Pulpit, himself Horse of the Year in 2014 and also ticketed for the Pegasus.
The Classic was Arrogate’s fifth straight victory and put him squarely in the mix for Horse of the Year honors, which, if it came to pass, would give Baffert his second straight such achievement, since Triple Crown winner American Pharoah won the award in 2015.
“From everything I’ve read, I never see Arrogate mentioned because he was a little late to the party,” said Baffert, who turns 64 on Jan. 13. The Classic was only Arrogate’s second stakes race and his second stakes win, both Grade I’s. He captured the Travers last August by 13 ½ lengths. “Maybe I should have started him in the Affirmed Stakes (July 2 at Del Mar).
“California Chrome has been so popular, he’s been good for racing, but I’d rather just prove it on the race track. I knew it would take a super horse to beat Chrome (in the Classic) and that’s why it was so exciting to win that race. What Arrogate did winning the Travers was something else, but we had to see it again to believe it. And when he won the Classic in a style he’s never shown before–we changed his style completely–I really think he would have been more effective up close.
“To me, it’s good enough that he won the right race. He beat a really good horse and he beat him here on the square, so to me, of all my Breeders’ Cup races, that’s been the most exciting. I thought he could do it, but you’re not sure until you see it, especially when they turned for home and Chrome was out there getting everything his own way (on the lead).
“I thought there was no way (Arrogate could win), and when he threw on those afterburners, it was one of the most thrilling victories for me in the last 10 years.”
The field for the San Pasqual, race eight of nine: Prospect Park, Norberto Arroyo Jr.; Accelerate, Tyler Baze; Dalmore, Kent Desormeaux; Midnight Storm, Rafael Bejarano; and Arrogate, Mike Smith.
Queen Blossom is scheduled to make her United States debut in Saturday’s Grade 1, $300,000 American Oaks for three-year-old fillies scheduled for a mile and a quarter on turf.
Trained by Graham Motion, the Irish-bred filly last raced May 11 in her native country.
“She’s trained well coming into this,” said Aimee Dollase, assistant to Motion. “She’s had two good works here and we’ll see what happens. It’s a tough race but she acts like she’s worked well. She’s been here a little over three weeks, and we’ve got (Joel) Rosario to ride.”
Rosario captured two stakes on opening day before a crowd of 46, 514, the Grade 3 San Simeon Stakes aboard Bettys Bambino and the Grade 1 Malibu on Mind Your Biscuits.
The field for the Oaks: Lady Valeur, Rafael Bejarano, 15-1; Stays in Vegas, Flavien Prat, 7-2; Dreamarcher, Luis Contreras, 30-1; How Unusual, Alex Solis, 30-1; Cheekaboo, Mike Smith, 8-1; Sassy Little Lila, Luis Saez, 9-2; Decked Out, Kent Desormeaux, 4-1; Queen Blossom, Joel Rosario, 9-2; Mrs. Norris, Victor Espinoza, 30-1; Sheeza Milky Way, Brice Blanc, 12-1; Dynamic Mizzes K, Corey Nakatani, 30-1; Barleysugar, Tyler Baze, 12-1; and Mokat, Drayden Van Dyke, 6-1.
Frenzified weakened to fifth after setting the pace in the Grade 3 Red Carpet Handicap at 1 3/8 miles on turf at Del Mar Nov. 24.
James Cassidy thinks the four-year-old English-bred daughter of Yeats fares better with a stalking trip, which he hopes unfolds in Saturday’s Grade III Robert J. Frankel Stakes scheduled for 1 1/8 miles on turf.
“She’s better when she’s not on the lead,” the trainer said. “She’ll stay close to the pace, though, and she’s doing well.”
As to his memories of Bobby Frankel, who died in 2009 and for whom the race is named, Cassidy said foremost in his mind were the long stories Frankel would tell. “He was a great guy,” Cassidy said. “I had a pretty good affection for him.”
The Frankel, race four of nine: Sweet Charity, Mike Smith, 6-1; Keri Belle, Nelson Arroyo Jr., 8-1 Frenzified, Santiago Gonzalez, 6-1; Arles, Joel Rosario, 5-2; Pretty Girl, Drayden Van Dyke, 5-1; Ryans Charm, Rafael Bejarano, 4-1; Goodyearforroses, Corey Nakatani, 8-1; and Into The Mystic, Flavien Prat, 6-1.
At his Los Alamitos headquarters Thursday, California Chrome worked a half mile in 48.20 . . . Jockey Israel Ocampo will make his Santa Anita debut on Saturday. The 30-year-old native of Mexico City represented by agent Aaron Hesz tacks 116 pounds and has won 1,004 races. He has been working horses for top trainers Richard Baltas, Phil D’Amato and Robertino Diodoro . . . Tom Quigley’s guests this holiday weekend will be private clocker and bloodstock agent Gary Young, Saturday; bloodstock agent Larry Zap, Sunday; and ace handicapper and Vice President of Horsebills.com Bob Ike, Monday, each day at 11:20 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens . . . Players wishing to gain a seat in the 2017 National Handicapping Championship Challenge in Las Vegas Jan. 7 or get a head start in the 2018 event can buy in to Santa Anita’s Players Choice contest for $500, a $300 bankroll plus a $200 entry fee. The top five finishers in the Players Choice competition will have their choice of a 2017 or 2018 NHC Challenge entry. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top four Players Choice finishers as follows: $10,000, $2,500, $1,500 and $1,000. For further information, visit santaanita.com/contest.
Source: Santa Anita Park
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