Can Arrogate Redeem Himself in the Pacific Classic?

Profile Picture: Ed DeRosa

Ed DeRosa

August 19th, 2017

Well, yeah, he can. Whether it's worth betting on whether he will is the real question.

All this week, I've asked colleagues what their fair odds are on Arrogate. handicapper Scott Shapiro wrote about it here; Anthony Stabille (literally) talked about it here; and James Scully and I discussed it in the video below.

I most agree with Anthony in that I would bet Arrogate at 4-to-5, but expect him to be 2-to-5 or 1-to-2 and thus unplayable to win. I agree with Scott in that it's mostly a three-horse race. I have Arrogate at 4-to-5, Collected at 7-to-2, Accelerate at 4-to-1, and then the rest at between 75- and 200-to-1.

Coming up with a fair odds line for this race is an exercise in how much you believe the San Diego Handicap. For Arrogate to legitimately have a 41%-55% chance of winning the Pacific Classic, some part of  you has to be willing to completely dismiss the San Diego because whatever chance Arrogate has to running back to that race is part of the no chance he has to win.

Arrogate's San Diego defeat by 15 lengths at 1-to-20 wasn't just a loss, it was an egg so big that when archaeologists dig it up they'll wonder if we raced ostriches instead of horses.If Arrogate had trained up to the Pacific Classic and the San Diego never existed he'd be 1-to-5 at most here. So for those willing to gamble that the San Diego was a complete aberration, he'll be an OK price.

There is some history to suggest that 15 lengths is a lot to make up in a Grade 1 race, however.

Since January 1, 2001, horses who lost by at least 15 lengths and then made their next start in a Grade 1 have won 25 of 450 races  (5.56%) with an ROI of -31.4%. If we limit it to horses who will be odds on--as I expect Arrogate to be--then it's just a 1-for-3 mark with a -56.6% ROI. The winner was War Emblem at 3-to-10 in the Haskell of his eased Belmont Stakes, and the losers were Icy Atlantic in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic and War Pass in the Wood Memorial. War Pass has the added distinction of being the only horse this century to lose at 1-to-20 and make his next start in a Grade 1 race, though that is likely to change Saturday when Arrogate starts in the Pacific Classic.

Limiting it to those with odds of less than 3-to-1 doesn't improve matters as that group is 7-for-28 with a -27.5% ROI.

War Pass not withstanding, the news does get better when looking at Arrogate's chances from a he-lost-at-1-to-20 perspective. There have been 74 such horses since 2001 who made their next start within 3 months of the 1-to-20 loss, and 28 or those won with an ROI of -16.1. Still not great, but that's about what takeout is so really no worse or better than you'd expect.

When limiting to odds on horses, it's a 16-for-29 mark with a 19.6% ROI. Again, about as good as betting any angle blindly. What's interesting, though, is when limiting it to horses at less than 1-to-2, you get a 10-for-13 mark and just a -2.3% ROI. This brings about an interesting dichotomy in that horses like these can almost seem "dead on the board" at 3- or 4-to-5 where as 2-to-5 can be a signal of confidence. However, we don't really want to bet at 2-to-5; we want 4-to-5!

In summary, the getting beat by 15 lengths is far more concerning than getting beat at 1-to-20. The saying, "Just win baby!" seems to apply here.