Remembering Arrogate: America’s Richest Racehorse

Bob BaffertThe USA’s biggest money-earner, Arrogate, dazzled the racing world with his brilliance but lost his battle with a mystery illness and had to be euthanized on June 2.

Owned by Juddmonte Farms, Arrogate appeared to be suffering from significant discomfort in his neck a week before his demise and his stallion duties were consequently put on hold. A few days later he collapsed in his stall and attempts to get him standing up again were unsuccessful. He was taken to Hagyard Equine Institute where he received the best possible care under their top team of veterinarians but secondary issues associated with the inability to stand necessitated the tragic ending of his life.

Arrogate’s career as a racehorse spanned just two seasons and his time in the breeding shed was not much longer, being in his third year as a stallion. He earned over $17 million in prize money on the track – a record for an American-trained thoroughbred – and had made a fairly promising start to his second career, standing for a fee of $50,000 in 2020.

Bred by Clearsky Farms this gray roan son of Unbridled’s Song was born on April 11, 2013 out of Bubbler, a Distorted Humor mare. He was withdrawn from the sales as a foal and was purchased for $560,000 as a yearling at Keeneland’s September sale by Juddmonte.

He was a stunning, strikingly good mover as a youngster and matured into one of the most impressive physical presences ever seen on a racetrack. He often towered over his rivals, his length of stride was phenomenal and he had that ‘look at me’ quality of a horse who knows he is extra special. Hard-nosed experts from within the racing world wanted to meet him and were not disappointed when they did.

Arrogate’s achievements on the racetrack were extraordinary. Trained by the legendary Bob Baffert, he was such a sizeable unit that he could have been ruined if he had raced before he had the strength to support his substantial frame.  Baffert and Juddmonte were patient. He did not race as a juvenile and he was given time to learn his trade and gain confidence before hitting the big time.

Arrogate made his debut in a maiden special weight at Los Alamitos in April 2016, a few days after he was three-years-old. It was over an inadequate six furlongs but his reputation preceded him and he started as the 1/2 (-200) favorite. He was green and slow into his stride and was beaten three quarters of a length into third under Martin Garcia. John Sadler’s star colt Accelerate was the 12/5 (+240) second favorite with the major USA racebooks and took second place. The winner, Westbrook, achieved nothing much and has long been forgotten.

Arrogate was next seen in early June in a similar contest over a mile and half a furlong at Santa Anita. He was the 9/10 favorite under Rafael Bejarano and rewarded bettors who kept the faith by beating Peter Eurton’s Giant Expectations by over four lengths. Three weeks later he won an allowance optional claimer by five lengths over the same distance at the same track under Bejarano. He started as the 3/5 favorite and won easily from the front. Next seen on August 4 at Del Mar, Arrogate was sent off at odds of 1/10 but was slowly away and won by less than two lengths.

Arrogate smashed the long-standing track record The real Arrogate emerged under Mike Smith over the slightly longer distance of a mile and a quarter in late August at Saratoga. It was his first experience of top-class company and his starting price of 12/1 suggested little confidence. He soon took the lead and blasted his rivals into submission in the Travers Stakes, winning by over 13 lengths. His more fancied stablemate American Freedom (5/1) was second, while Steve Asmussen’s star colt Gun Runner took third. Arrogate also smashed the long-standing track record. His performance made all who witnessed it take note, it was the most visually impressive of his victories and provoked comparisons with the legendary Secretariat’s spectacular win in the Belmont.

It was a closer run thing in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November. Arrogate broke the hearts of countless Chromies by overcoming California Chrome, the 5/6 favorite, by half a length at Santa Anita. The pair finished more than ten lengths ahead of their closest pursuers.

The slightly shorter trip of a mile and a furlong proved no problem for him in the inaugural Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in late January. Smith rode him close to the pace and he cruised home, winning by nearly five lengths. He started as the 9/10 favorite and was untroubled by a below par, now six-year-old California Chrome who was beaten 30 lengths and subsequently retired. The betting suggested it was a two-horse race and one of them failed to show up on the day so it was an easy route to a mega payout.

The Dubai World Cup at Meydan in March was next for Arrogate. Run over a mile and a quarter it should have been a cakewalk but things did not go to plan. He was sent off the 1/3 favorite but had problems at the start and ended up trailing the pack of 14 on a horribly muddy track. He valiantly ran through kickback galore to take the lead a furlong out and beat Gun Runner, the 7/1 second favorite, two and a quarter lengths. Having overcome such adversity Arrogate was hailed as a hero but it was ugly.

Baffert had withdrawn Arrogate when tracks were described as sloppy before but, having made the journey with another huge prize fund on offer the pressure was presumably on to run whatever. Arrogate was broken by the experience. He reappeared after a long absence in the TVG San Diego Handicap at Del Mar in July and started as the 1/20 favorite but was beaten 15 lengths by Accelerate, finishing with only one horse behind him. In August he was beaten half a length into second at the same track by his less fancied stablemate, Collected, in the TVG Pacific Classic. His next start and swansong was in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November where he started 2/1 favorite but finished fifth, beaten six lengths by Gun Runner.

Dubai was Arrogate’s undoing and we are never going to know exactly why. Baffert said that he was not blowing hard afterwards but admitted that he subsequently lost a lot of weight, especially over his withers, and had problems with a hind hoof. Physical damage can often be fixed and if his home work had been horrendous he should not have been fancied to win his next three starts. Perhaps Arrogate simply lost enthusiasm for the racing game. It happens and is not usually mentioned as mental fragility does not inflate stud fees. His had dropped from $75,000 to $50,000 in 2020.

Whatever the reasons for his decline he should be remembered for his tremendous talent, RIP Arrogate.