Collected a major BC Classic threat no matter who shows up
by DICK POWELL
It would have been a lot easier to draw handicapping conclusions if ARROGATE would have won the Pacific Classic (G1) by four lengths. But, he ran well enough when second to stablemate COLLECTED to enter into that "glass half full/half empty" zone.
Breaking much better than he did in the San Diego H. (G2), Mike Smith sent him up to the leaders but kept in the clear three wide instead of tucking in behind dueling leaders like he did in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream Park. Martin Garcia put Collected on the lead and he was stalked by ACCELERATE with Arrogate to their outside.
Down the backside, Arrogate never looked like Arrogate. Smith was working to maintain his position, and that enormous stride that we saw when he won four Grade 1 stakes races in a row was not evident. The pace was honest and positions did not change for the first mile, which was no surprise when you looked at the betting board and saw that only three horses took money.
Collected still had the lead turning for home and Smith was all over Arrogate without that sudden response we saw previously. Accelerate was the first to crack and Arrogate passed him and, maybe for a hundred yards, the old Arrogate kicked in with his enormous stride, but Collected was not coming back to him and he could not do enough to get there.
Collected won by a half-length in 2:00.70 with Arrogate second and Accelerate third. Arrogate ran 51 feet farther than Collected, so when that is factored in it was a terrific performance by him. But it still shows up as a loss and coupled with his San Diego Handicap debacle, the bloom is off the rose and now he suddenly has a lot to prove.
With three workouts over the Del Mar main track and now two losing races over it, it's pretty obvious that Arrogate doesn't grab it the way he does others. Winning major races at Saratoga, Santa Anita, Gulfstream Park and Meydan gave the impression that he can handle any dirt surface but there is something about the Del Mar dirt track that is different. He doesn't get his weight up underneath him with his head down so the cruising speed that he used to show is not there.
The question now is what does Baffert do from here. When Triple Crown winner AMERICAN PHAROAH was beaten in the Travers (G1) in 2015, there were nine weeks until the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) so Baffert trained him up to it.
Now, there are 11 weeks between the Pacific Classic and the Breeders' Cup Classic, so does he want to get him ready without a prep race? There are no prep races at Del Mar, so a meaningless win at Santa Anita would not accomplish much. If he trains him up to the Breeders' Cup Classic, will he do it at Del Mar and give him more time to acclimate on it? No wonder Baffert has gray hair. You think it's easy training top horses?
Luckily, Baffert trains Collected and he has now won four straight races this year. Fast and now dangerous at 10 furlongs, despite a sprint pedigree, he relaxes beautifully in his races and showed he can finish. A 10-furlong win over the track against Grade 1 company makes him a threat in the Classic no matter who shows up.
Living in Saratoga has its advantages. Consider this weekend: beside the Travers, we have the Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) going seven furlongs for three-year-olds and a nice little filly named SONGBIRD will be in the Personal Ensign (G1). Next week, we should have GUN RUNNER in the Woodward (G1). Not a bad little place to live.