Chrome Seeks Breeders’ Cup Classic Consolation in Pegasus

Bob BaffertThe $12m Pegasus World Cup may prove a rewarding consolation for California Chrome after his epic defeat at the hands of Arrogate in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. It is looking unlikely that his Santa Anita conqueror Arrogate will line up in the world’s richest, and newest, horse race on January 28.

California Chrome appeared a worthy 5/6 favorite in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic for 90% of the race but Arrogate, the second favorite at 7/4, responded to Mike Smith’s requests to quicken after turning into the stretch to defeat him on the wire at Santa Anita on November 6.

Arrogate looked a beaten horse galloping round the final bend when California Chrome kicked away from him but produced a decisive final surge of speed in the last 30 yards that carried him to victory by half a length.

After crossing the wire the three-year-old Arrogate seemed happy to keep galloping as if he had just managed to find top gear and was enjoying using it. When Smith finally pulled him up he was elated, he had been feeling the pain of getting narrowly beaten on his beloved Songbird, the 11/10 favorite in the Distaff 24 hours earlier. That unexpected loss made the win really special for him.

Smith thought that it was an incredible performance for such an inexperienced horse. Arrogate had never encountered anything that compared with the buzz of the Breeders’ Cup and had a real good look at the sound equipment used by the interviewer.

It was an epic performance by both Arrogate and the five-year-old California Chrome that put them nearly 11 lengths clear of the chasing pack. The 50/1 long shot, Todd Pletcher’s Keen Ice, delighted and probably surprised his owners at Donegal Racing by taking third, beating the winner’s stablemate Hoppertunity (20/1) a neck. Keen Ice’s owners knew that he did not have the talent to challenge Arrogate or California Chrome unless there was a pace situation that would compromise both colts’ chances.

For Arrogate’s trainer Bob Baffert (pictured) it was a third straight Breeders’ Cup Classic win that he was not expecting. He thought that California Chrome was just too good for his colt who was still learning the racing game. Baffert admitted that he is not easily excited these days but he was jumping up and down as if the floor was on fire as his colt got his head in front of California Chrome on only his sixth run.

California Chrome had been so masterfully minded by his veteran trainer Art Sherman that Baffert was not alone in thinking that he could not be beaten. Chrome had won his six previous starts with awesome ease.

In March California Chrome won the Dubai World Cup by nearly four lengths, barely breaking a sweat. That win took him into the history books as his total prize money reached a record-breaking $12.5 million. Art Sherman said prior to that race that his star colt was probably five lengths better than when he was set for the 2015 Dubai World Cup and finished second.

Sherman’s son Alan had been given the job of supervising Chrome’s preparation out in Dubai this year. Art had not seen the colt for a month when he landed in Dubai and was amazed at how good he looked. He thought that he had grown a little taller since he last saw him, unless he himself had shrunk.

It was a similar story in the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August – except that California Chrome won even more easily by five lengths, beating the Richard Mandella-trained mare Beholder. It was Beholder who denied Songbird in the Distaff. Most recently California Chrome had cruised to victory in the appropriately titled Awesome Again Stakes on October 1, beating the Bob Baffert-trained Dortmund.

Arrogate is too young to have such an impressive curriculum vitae but was described by trainer Steven Asmussen as ‘a freak’ after he annihilated his 12 rivals in a record-breaking time in the Travers at Saratoga in August. Arrogate won by over 13 lengths, setting an impossible pace that he maintained all the way to the wire. This son of Unbridled’s Song was not expected to deliver such a dazzling performance, he started at odds of just under 12/1 in the online betting with the USA sportsbooks.

This huge grey colt bred by Clearsky Farms was a $560,000 purchase for his owner Juddmonte Farms, aka Prince Khalid Abdullah, as a yearling at Keenelands. Arrogate never made it on to the racetrack as a juvenile as he had issues with sore shins, a pretty common problem with large-bodied youngsters. Fortunately Prince Khalid can afford to be patient.

When he finally appeared on the racetrack Arrogate was a beaten hot favorite on his debut in a six furlong special weight maiden at Los Alamitos in April. Six furlongs was surely not far enough for him even to get into his stride. He lined up in a similar contest over a mile and half a furlong next at Santa Anita in June and won, following up with another victory three weeks later.

Arrogate had put together a string of three wins by unremarkable margins before the Travers. Stepping up to a mile and a quarter for the first time obviously gave him the opportunity to show his true talent. He had not been asked to compete on a racetrack since but there were exciting reports of the fractions he was posting in his work.

If Arrogate’s issue with sore shins is over and he can stay healthy the racing world has a new force of nature to beat. Prince Khalid is considering this ultra-talented colt’s options but is in no rush.

California Chrome already has a stall booked in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup on January 28. It will be his final start before embarking on a new career at stud.

Lord Teddy Grimthorpe, Juddmonte Farms’ Racing Manager is reluctant to commit to the Pegasus, suggesting that the Dubai World Cup could be the main target for Arrogate’s season as a four-year-old. Prince Khalid enjoys showcasing his horses’ talents at home and wants to give his new star the best possible chance to shine.

Racing fans across the globe would love to see a rematch of these Titans but it seems very unlikely. The legend that is California Chrome deserves to end his racing career with a victory. Arrogate’s absence has to be a big positive in helping him to achieve it in the Pegasus.

What do you think?

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