Arrogate to bring doubts into Classic again

Profile Picture: James Scully

August 21st, 2017

Fears of a regression surrounded Arrogate following a track record-setting romp in last year’s Travers (G1). The remarkable improvement from the first four career starts, including a 124 BRIS Speed Rating 24-points higher than his previous best, led to predictions of a “bounce” in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Circumstances are different but the superstar gray colt is facing the same question heading into a Classic title defense at Del Mar: Can Arrogate deliver an optimal performance?

Back-to-back losses in the San Diego H. (G2) and Pacific Classic (G1) at Del Mar have led to concerns of whether he’s over the top and/or doesn’t favor the seaside track. It’s all speculation but here are the arguments:

Arrogate’s Classic victory came over his home track at Santa Anita but he’s logged plenty of miles, and recorded spectacular victories, traveling to Saratoga for the Travers, Gulfstream for the Pegasus World Invitational (G1) and overseas for the Dubai World Cup (G1). Those efforts have taken a toll and as a result, Arrogate hasn’t been able to offer the same tremendous stride from the previous eight-month period.

A dislike of Del Mar’s main track became a sticking point when Arrogate showed up with a complete clunker in the San Diego. Last year, he followed a pair of smashing wins at Santa Anita with a workmanlike allowance tally at Del Mar pre-Travers and the recent subpar outings have tainted a legacy of greatness. If only the Breeders’ Cup was offered at Santa Anita or some other venue this year because Arrogate doesn’t appear as comfortable at Del Mar.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert didn’t think Arrogate would bounce last year and dismisses the notion he can’t handle Del Mar’s track. The champion obviously failed to show in the San Diego, taking a big step back after an incredible four-race run, but Baffert believes he can still return to peak condition. Arrogate isn’t a switch that can be flipped on and off, it will take time to build him back up and the Pacific Classic served as a positive step in the process.

“Arrogate looked like he just ran in spurts the whole way around, but I was encouraged by the way he laid it down the last eighth of a mile and showed some willingness to win,” Baffert said. “He’s not back to where he was, but he showed some class and heart.”

It took a huge effort from Collected to beat Arrogate by a half-length and the winner was a bit overshadowed afterwards. Unraced for nearly 10 months following an unplaced finish in the 2016 Preakness, the City Zip colt has developed into a tremendous front-runner, reeling off four straight stakes victories this season for Baffert, and earned BRIS Speed numbers of 106-110-111 in the last three starts.

Arrogate came back from a 10-week freshening to win the Classic as the 8-5 second choice, courageously running down California Chrome in the stretch, and will receive 11 weeks of preparation for the 2017 edition. He’s a candidate to keep moving forward in the interim and while the last two losses will embolden bettors playing against the probable favorite, Arrogate remains eligible to run the competition off their feet on November 4.