Bob Baffert saddled the first two horses home in the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic but not in the order that many US bettors or Baffert expected. Collected (3/1) repelled the late challenge of the 7/10 favorite Arrogate to win by a half-length at Del Mar on August 20.
Owned by Speedway Stables and ridden by Martin Garcia, it was Collected’s first Grade 1 victory and his first attempt at the Pacific distance of a mile and a quarter. He achieved it showing plenty of stamina, taking the lead as he left the gates and refusing to relinquish it.
John Sadler’s Accelerate (16/5) took third place under Victor Espinoza beaten four lengths. He was last seen triumphing at this track in the San Diego Handicap in July when he beat Arrogate 15 lengths. Curlin Road (30/1) was fourth for Doug O’Neill ahead of another Sadler trainee, Hard Aces (30/1). Royal Albert Hall, the 86/1 outsider, took sixth leaving Donworth (21/1) to complete the finishing order. Sorry Erik was scratched on the day.
A fourth straight win for Collected
Unlike his famous barnmate who bombed last time, Collected came into the Pacific on the back of three wins. They were all achieved after he had been off the track for ten months. Collected was back in action in April and has been gaining momentum ever since.
Garcia joked after his 14 length Precisionist Stakes victory on Collected in June that he would like to try a mile and a quarter on him but thought it was unlikely to happen because he might end up beating Arrogate.
Garcia was not the only person who thought Collected had a good chance, he was sent off as the second favorite. Garcia celebrated as he crossed the wire ahead of the closing Arrogate. The relatively compact chestnut Collected looked like a pony as his outsized gray barnmate loomed upsides him. Garcia said he felt as if he was in a small car being chased by a much bigger one. The rabbit beat the fox.
Four years ago Garcia won the Pacific on Baffert’s Game On Dude. After this win he praised Collected saying that, although he used his whip a few times, he knew that he had given everything.
What happened in the race?
Collected broke well from stall two and did not need much encouragement from Garcia to use his natural speed to take the lead and hug the rail. Accelerate was drawn next to him and Espinoza kept close to Collected, a half-length behind him.
Mike Smith was much more active on Arrogate than last time. He did not break as sharply as Collected or Accelerate from his berth in stall seven and Smith hustled him forward to take third, wide of the leading pair.
As they reached the half-mile pole Garcia and Espinoza were motionless, easily maintaining their positions while Smith niggled Arrogate along three wide. Arrogate needed to be reminded that he was in a race so it was not a good time to go to sleep. Smith sensibly wanted to be close to the pace but probably wanted to avoid annoying his colt by putting him in the path of kickback.
At the three-quarter pole the order at the head of the pack was unchanged. Garcia allowed Collected to quicken gaining a length on Accelerate with Arrogate a length and a half further back. Donworth had moved closer to them to take fourth ahead of the rail-hugging Royal Albert Hall, five lengths behind the leader.
Going into the final turn Collected looked to have Accelerate beat, gaining a greater advantage as Accelerate ran wide. Espinoza and Garcia had both used their whips and the race-caller observed that Arrogate did not look comfortable, trailing them two lengths.
With an eighth of a mile left to run Accelerate was unable to live up to his name, he had nothing left to give and was two lengths behind Collected but retained an advantage of a length over Arrogate. Anyone who had wagered on one of the Pacific long shots gave up hope at this point. Not one of them looked likely to take a place as the three favored colts had gone clear of the pack.
As Accelerate weakened in the stretch Smith got busy with his whip hand and started to close on Collected but it was too little too late. Arrogate only got going when Smith pulled him wide of Accelerate even though there was a gap for him to run through closer to the rail. It may be a coincidence but it could be that the hero of Baffert’s barn is no longer willing to run through kickback.
Baffert’s facial expression after the race showed his disappointment that Collected rather than Arrogate had given him his fifth Pacific victory. It was a massive improvement on Arrogate’s last run but he was still not showing the world-beating talent that enabled him to overcome trouble in running and make top level competition look like donkeys.
Peter Fluor, one third of the Speedway team, was the only person connected to the yard who was smiling broadly after the win. He described Arrogate as a legend and was over the moon that his colt had beaten him.
Fluor was not the one who got a boost from this result. Arrogate is fast turning from scourge of the main USA betting companies to their number one benefactor, this being the second consecutive time he has been beaten at odds-on.
What’s the story on Collected
Collected was bought by SGV Thoroughbreds for $150,000 as a yearling at Keeneland, a fraction of the $560,000 price paid by Juddmonte Farms for the mighty Arrogate. Six months later this son of City Zip out of Helena Bay, a Johannesburg mare, was purchased for Speedway by bloodstock agents Marrett Farrell and John Adger for $170,000 as a two-year-old at Ocala in March 2015.
Speedway bought Collected with a plan to send him to Baffert. He soon showed ability, winning his maiden special weight at Santa Anita in October 2015. Collected was runner-up to Dressed In Hermes in the Grade 3 Cecil B Demille Stakes over a mile a month later at Del Mar.
In January 2016 Collected won the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita. He took another Grade 3, the Lexington at Keeneland, in April but was beaten over 20 lengths in the Preakness on a sloppy track at Pimlico in May. That performance or an injury picked up during the race was presumably the reason for his lengthy rest period. Baffert knows how to get the best out of any horse and his patience with Collected has been rewarded.
What’s next for the Baffert trainees?
The Pacific win guarantees Collected a starting gate in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Baffert confirmed after his victory that he would not run him in the Dirt Mile now he has shown his ability to perform over a mile and a quarter. Del Mar will be the venue for the Breeders’ Cup for the first time on November 4.
Baffert still believes that Arrogate is his most talented trainee but he also thinks that horses need to like Del Mar. Collected obviously loves the track and may well beat Arrogate again.