2017 Pacific Classic Arrogate Songbird

Arrogate Prepares For 2017 Pacific Classic

The combination of Arrogate’s brutal fourt place finish in the San Diego Handicap, along with Gun Runner’s recent win in The Whitney, has many people wondering just who the best racehorse in the country actually is. It’s a typical debate between talent and production. To regain his footing in the discussion, Arrogate needs a top performance in the 2017 Pacific Classic.

Arrogate went back to work with his typical team in order to prepare for a race that should boast a very competitive field. Official splits for his recent drills included fractions of :25 1/5, :37 1/5, :48 2/5, 1:00 3/5, and 1:12 3/5. He was timed on the gallop out in 1:38 1/5. Everything seems to be pointed in the right direction.

“It was a serious work,” commented trainer Bob Baffert. “He didn’t need much encouragement. He’s showing no signs . He’s moving forward. I’ve seen a big difference in him since that last race. He’s back to his old self again.” This is good news for the horse that will undoubtedly enter the 2017 Pacific Classic as the favorite.

Jockey Mike Smith, who has ridden Arrogate for the brunt of his competitive career, also said that Arrogate, “Looked good. He galloped out strong.”

The field for the 2017 Pacific Classic is expected to include Accelerate, who handed Arrogate his first defeat in the 2017 San Diego Handicap. Collected and Curlin Road are also expected to fill the gates.

But the most anticipated rival to Arrogate will be Songbird, who has picked up two wins this year in the 2017 Ogden Phipps and the 2017 Delaware Handicap. This would be the second time in two years that the Pacific Classic featured a battle between the top male and female dirt runners in the world. Last year, California Chrome made short work of Beholder.

A month ago, this wouldn’t have even been up for debate. Songbird is an astounding talent, but Arrogate feels like he comes from another planet. However, there is a dent in that undefeated armor now and Arrogate’s strongest rivals will feel like there’s a chance to overtake the 2016 Horse of the Year. To be fair, Songbird didn’t look untoucachable in the Delaware as she barely outlasted Martini Glass for the win.

The 2017 Pacific Classic will run on Saturday, August 19th out of Del Mar Racetrack, the same venue as the 2017 Breeders’ Cup. We’ll have more coverage in the next two weeks on the big race.

Mastery retired

Potential Champion Mastery Retired

We’ll never really know what Mastery was capable of. The three-year-old colt has been retired to Clairborne Farms after suffering a condylar fracture in his front left leg back in March. Unfortunately, he just never recovered and will prepare for what promises to be a decent stud career.

Mastery is undefeated in four races having won the Bob Hope Stakes, Los Alamitos Futurity and the San Felipe Stakes in dominant fashion. The son of Candy Ride opened his career with a win in a maiden special weight in October 2016 as well. In total, Mastery has won $511,200 after being purchased for $425,000.

How good was this horse? Many considered him Bob Baffert’s best prospect in the 2017 Triple Crown. Mastery opened the Kentucky Derby Futures Wager as a 10/1 top choice and held those odds up until the final round, where concerns about his ability to compete after a fractured left leg arose in March following the San Felipe.

It’s a sour end to what could have been an incredible career and Baffert is still reeling from the sudden downturn in the undefeated colt’s career. “He was just starting to mature,” Baffert said. “I’m still sick about him getting hurt. It’s safe to say he was on the same path as American Pharoah, the way he was dominating his races.”

The 2017 San Felipe Stakes was where Mastery established the hype. He went off as a 4/5 favorite and dusted a field that included Iliad and Gormley. But after the race, jockey Mike Smith knew something was off and pulled him up after crossing the finish line. X-Rays proved that the jockey’s fears were well justified, and a recovery strategy was immediately put in place. Unfortunately, that not only involved surgery, it meant that Mastery wouldn’t be ready for the Kentucky Derby despite being one of the favorites.

This is truly part of the sport. Injuries happen at the most inopportune times, and can sometimes have tragic endings. It’s certainly a loss considering how sorely we’ve yearned for a true king of the colts this year and having the endorsement of a trainer like Baffert goes a long way in substantiating how talented Mastery actually was.

Mastery will retire undefeated and as a son of Candy Ride out of Steady Course, he is sure to have a strong life as a sire.

Arrogate 2017 Dubai World Cup

Arrogate Wins 2017 Dubai World Cup

The 2017 Dubai World Cup was supposed to be easy going for the gambler. At 2/5, with nobody coming even close on the board, Arrogate was the runaway top choice off the morning line. Gun Runner and Mubtaahj were each 8/1 as second choices, with Hoppertunity valued at nearly double with 15/1 odds of his own. Everyone else was shelled with longshot marks. Essentially, this was a layup.

In fact, this challenge was anything but.

Arrogate broke dead last from the gate after a horrific start. Mike Smith later admitted that he totally missed the bell, and as everyone watched on, Arrogate was playing catch up behind the 14-horse field. The start was so poor that even Bob Baffert had to be holding his breath. “I was thinking, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have brought him. Maybe he’s getting tired,'” the trainer later recounted.

Then something truly remarkable began to unfold. Arrogate began to devour the track, but did it was such grace and confidence that it didn’t even seem real. As the race marched on, so did Arrogate. By the top of the stretch he still had work to do, as Gun Runner had battled all the way with Neolithic for the lead. That’s when Arrogate unleashed his trademark speed in the 2017 Dubai World Cup to take the win. And he made it look so easy.

It’s hard to put what Arrogate has done in the past year in to perspective. The win at the $10 million 2017 Dubai World Cup has now launched him to the top of the historical standings with $17,084,600 in winnings. He has won so many marquee races but the fact that the Triple Crown is not part of it detracts from his standing to mainstream fans. It’s much easier to sell American Pharoah as the “greatest in the modern era” but Arrogate is posting a tremendously difficult case. Should he win the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic as the defending champion, that debate will rage on for the rest of time.

As will Arrogate’s performance in the 2017 Dubai World Cup. Click below to witness it for yourself.

2017 Pegasus World Cup arrogate

Arrogate Dominant At 2017 Pegasus

The 2017 Pegasus World Cup cemented one living legend, while signalling the end of another.

Initially the oddsmakers had given the popular California Chrome the benefit of the doubt and made him the slight favorite. But by the time the race began, Arrogate had moved in as the 4/5 favorite with California Chrome holding 6/5 odds as the eventual second choice. The two would exchange early blows right from the onset.

Noble Bird took the field out as the pace setter with 30/1 odds of his own, and was trailed by Neolithic who had settled in at 23/1. Arrogate and California Chrome were next in position, trailed solely by War Story. Shaman Ghost was a few lengths back as the next in line ahead of the remainder who never stood a chance. One of the biggest shocks early on in the 2017 Pegasus was that Keen Ice had slipped all the way to the back and was very much a non-factor.

Clocking at :23.46 and :46.14 for the first two fractions, the pace itself was blistering but Arrogate was set up perfectly for a crash course down the final stretch. When pressed by jockey Mike Smith, Arrogate tore off and took the lead only to open up a cavernous gap between him and the rest of the field. California Chrome was urged on by Victor Espinoza, but simply didn’t have it in him today. It was a runaway victory for champion Arrogate, who solidified himself as the newest big ticket on the block.

California Chrome would slip all the way to 9th in the 2017 Pegasus World Cup during what is now known as the final race of his career. It wasn’t the storybook ending that his connections and fans had hoped for. “It looks like he scrambled away from there and couldn’t get his footing,” trainer Art Sherman noted. “It looked like he wasn’t getting a hold of the racetrack, like maybe his feet were getting out from under him. I don’t know why. He worked good over it.”

Smith was interviewed by NBC following the victory and was quick to point out that, “Once I got out going into the far turn, I knew we were going to be very tough to beat. He had a lot of run today and I was very happy. As far as winning the world’s richest race, I’m absolutely numb.”

It’s hard not to be happy with the lion’s share of the $12 million purse that came along with the 2017 Pegasus World Cup. This was exactly the start that Bob Baffert and the horse’s owners were hoping for, with the Dubai World Cup expected to be his next stop. Imagine winning two races totally $22 million to start the season? It’s unbelievable.

But that’s exactly what Arrogate has become. The reigning Breeders’ Cup Champion and 2017 Pegasus World Cup Champion drew a television rating of approximately 1.25 million with an all-sources handle of just over $40 million. Eyes and interests will be keenly fixated on Arrogate as he continues to storm the season.

As for California Chrome, it’s a quiet end to an otherwise boisterous career. Though the 2017 Pegasus World Cup didn’t unfold the way Sherman had planned, at the very least California Chrome escaped uninjured. He has settled in at Taylor Made Farms where he will begin a lengthy and prosperous second career at stud.


Mastery Takes Final Derby Prep of 2016

In the final Kentucky Derby prep race for the calendar year, two-year-old Mastery put himself on the map. It was the third consecutive win in as many starts for the young contender who joins Mor Spirit, Dortmund and Shared Belief as a winner at the Los Alamitos Futurity. The only downside is that he faced a small field of just five total horses.

Those concerns should be wiped away considering that Mastery posted an absurdly fast time at the track. Winning in 1:41.56 puts him in the company of 2008 Los Alamitos Futurity winner Pioneerof the Nile, who would go on to finish second at the Kentucky Derby in 2009. You might know that name since ‘Nile’ sired American Pharoah. So it’s good news regardless of the small field opposing Mastery.

Trainer Bob Baffert was satisfied with the results after seeing Mastery take on two turns for the first time. “You never know how they are going to do going two turns for the first time until they try it,” Baffert said. “Turning for home, he hit a bit of a lull and I didn’t know if he was going to go on or flatten out. Mike said it was a good thing I put blinkers back on him, because he hit the brakes when he made the lead. The last part, he threw it in another gear.”

Of course, Mastery did not have a perfect run and was challenged by Irap in those final moments. There are still some kinks to work out. “I was worried when I saw the fractions, but he looked like he handled it pretty well. He withstood it and kicked on again at the end.”

Mastery paid $2.40 and $2.10 with the win while Irap delivered $9.40 to place. There was no show wagering due to the size of the field.


Arrogate Surges Late to Capture Breeders’ Cup Classic

Arrogate Tops 2014 Preakness Winner California Chrome in BC Classic Stretch Duel

A record crowd of 72,811 turned out Saturday at Santa Anita for the biggest day of racing. The 2016 Breeders’ Cup had many exciting racing results, and the Breeders’ Cup Classic turned into a fantastic finish for racing fans. In what turned into a two-horse stretch duel, Arrogate challenged 2014 Preakness winner California Chrome and then surged late in the final strides to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the $3.3 million first place prize in the richest race.

Mike Smith aboard Arrogate in Winners Circle of Breeders' Cup Classic
Mike Smith aboard Arrogate in Winners Circle of Breeders’ Cup Classic

Arrogate, the brilliant 3-year-old star by Unbridle’s Song, chased California Chrome in the stretch, leaving the rest of the field in the dust. With a few whips in the late stages by jockey Mike Smith, Arrogate pulled past California Chrome in the final 100 yards to win the 1 1 ¼ mile race in a final time of 2:00.11.   

“When I did that, he gave me another jump,” Smith said. “That is what got us on by.”

10 ARROGATE $5.40 $2.80 $2.60
3 KEEN ICE $5.80

California Chrome had won six-straight races this year and is the all-time money winner in North America. He went off as the 4-5 favorite in the 10-horse field, while Arrogate was the 8/5 second choice in the BC Classic.

Arrogate trainer Bob Baffert, who won his third consecutive Breeders’ Cup Classic, was still surprised his star colt was able to overtake California Chrome.

“I was surprised I beat him,” Baffert said. “I didn’t think I could beat him going in.”

But Arrogate’s Breeders’ Cup Classic win sets him up as racing’s future star. His fifth-straight win was against horse racing’s best, and California Chrome may have just one race left in his illustrious 5-year-old career.

“You saw two champions run,” said Art Sherman, California Chrome’s 79-year-old trainer. “What can I say? We got outrun on the fair. No excuses. He ran his eyeballs out.”

Baffert chimed in with a final comment on Arrogate and the excitement that is the Breeders’ Cup.

“This horse is just learning how to run. California Chrome is a champion,” Baffert said. “To run down California Chrome, that’s what the Breeders’ Cup is all about, watching races like that.”

Fans enjoyed blue skies, sunshine and the beautiful backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains at Santa Anita. They wagered their money on their favorite horses too. The total on-track wagering Saturday at Santa Anita was $13,515,269, an increase of 3.5 percent from last year’s same day wagering total at Keeneland in Kentucky. The two-day on-track wagering total was $20,694,235.

Santa Anita Saturday Preview 10/1

Star Studded Saturday at Santa Anita

Santa Anita Park will host an incredible card this coming Saturday. It’s highlighted by the Awesome Again Stakes and the Zenyatta Stakes, which feature four of the most talented horses in the sport. Both events offer places in the Breeders’ Cup events as part of the challenge series prep race circuit. Heading to Santa Anita for their final warm-ups prior to the world championships are California Chrome, Dortmund, Stellar Wind and Beholder making this a must-see weekend at the California based track.

The main event of Santa Anita’s busy Saturday is undoubtedly the Awesome Again Stakes. The field of seven boasts three absolute studs in the form of California Chrome, Dortmund and Hoppertunity who are the no-brainer choices to finish in the top-three. But the draw has yielded some unexpected drama.

California Chrome will rifle out of the inside rail in hopes of getting past Dortmund, who will start right next to him in the second post. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but the 1 1/8 mile distance offers little room for error. Dortmund is also an imposing figure who could attempt to box California Chrome in or discourage him with some physical contact. The intensity out of the gates at Santa Anita this weekend will be sky high.

Trainer Art Sherman remained confident in his incredible horse. “I think I’ve got the best horse in the country,” Sherman said. “I might be a little prejudiced about it, but, you know, he’s done about everything a horse could do. We’ve travelled all over the country, abroad, and we’ve never ducked anybody, and it’s been a hard journey. He really can’t prove anything more to me. I think right now you’re going to wind up seeing him the rest of the year at his peak.”

California Chrome has beaten Dortmund in back-to-back efforts at the Pacific Classic and the San Diego Handicap. The oddsmakers are suggesting that it will be three consecutive victories. I’m sure that Baffert and Dortmund are expecting a different result this time.

Both are pointed towards the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita towards the end of the season.

2016 Awesome Again Stakes – Saturday, October 1st at Santa Anita (6:30pm EST)
1 1/8 Miles — 3+ Year Olds — $300,000

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 California Chrome (CA) Victor Espinoza 125 Art Sherman
2 Dortmund (KY) Rafael Bejarano 121 Bob Baffert
3 Hoppertunity (KY) Flavien Prat 121 Bob Baffert
4 Win the Space (KY) Gary L. Stevens 121 George Papaprodromou
5 Soi Phet (CA) Kent J. Desormeaux 121 Leonard Powell
6 El Huerfano (CA) Martin A. Pedroza 121 Peter Miller
7 Hard Aces (KY) Santiago Gonzalez 121 John W. Sadler

One of the final races of the big card at Santa Anita will see Beholder trying to fend off Stellar wind in the Zenyatta Stakes. The two have faced off before, with the latter beating the former at the Clement Hirsch in an upset. However, Stellar Wind’s trainer was adamant that that victory was no fluke and is beyond excited to see what his emerging four-year old filly has to offer in the rematch.

“It looks like it’s going to be another epic race,” John Sadler quipped. “Stellar Wind has trained really well and hasn’t missed a day or an oat, or anything since her last race, so we’re looking forward to it.”

Beholder lost back-to-back races for the first time in her career over the summer. She also lost to California Chrome at the Pacific Classic. A return to the female-only side of racing might be the confidence booster she needs, but she needs to vanquish her rival to prove she has the competitive spirit to go for the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita in just over a month’s time.

Stellar Wind will be opting for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at the world championships. This will be the final tune-up for both stars.

The main dark horse in the group is Tara’s Tango, who has gone 3-0-1 this season in four starts.

2016 Zenyatta Stakes – Saturday, October 1st at Santa Anita Park (7:30pm EST)
1 1/16th Miles — 3+ Year Old Fillies & Mares — $300,000

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Off the Road (BRZ) Tiago Josue Pereira 121 Richard E. Mandella
2 Beholder (KY) Gary L. Stevens 125 Richard E. Mandella
3 Vale Dori (ARG) Rafael Bejarano 121 Bob Baffert
4 Tara’s Tango (KY) Martin Garcia 123 Jerry Hollendorfer
5 Stellar Wind (VA) Victor Espinoza 125 John W. Sadler

Arrogate Awesome in Travers Stakes Triumph

Arrogate Sets Track Record with 13 Length Win in Travers

Jockey Mike Smith unleashed Arrogate as they turned for home in the $1.25 million Travers Saturday, and the nearly 50,000 fans at Saratoga and a NBC television crowd were about to witness a riveting finish and track record.

Saturday’s at Saratoga are usually special, but this day became awesome when Arrogate turned in a record time performance to annihilate 12 challengers and win the 147th running of the Travers Stakes. The final time covering 1 ¼ miles was 1:59.36, a track record for the distance and a new Travers record that was set in 1979 by General Assembly.

“He has a stride that is tremendous,” Smith said. “Although we were going quick, he was well within himself.”

Arrogate Travers Winners CircleSent off at 11-1, Arrogate moved to the lead at the half mile marker in a brisk 46.84 just ahead of stablemate American Freedom. Those two maintained their position around the far turn for trainer Bob Baffert, who had to be grinning ear to ear as his two horses came down the stretch. Especially the big gray Arrogate, who’s powerful and smooth stride extended the lead and continued his steamroll past the final furlong to win by 13 1/2 lengths.

“I was amazed how he lengthened his stride and opened up,” Smith said.

Arrogate paid $25.40, $12.60 and $8.40. American Freedom was second for $6.70 and $4.60.  Gun Runner finished third for a $2 trifecta payoff of $2,028. The $2 exacta paid $134.50.

“We ran into a freak today,” said Steve Asmussen, the trainer of Gun Runner. “He never slowed down.”

Preakness Stakes winner and race favorite Exaggerator was never a factor and failed to fire with his usual closing kick in finishing 11th. Belmont Stakes champion Creator didn’t close either and finished seventh.

“Turning for home, I sat back, and I just thought, wow, he is just what I was hoping he was like, and I knew there was no way they were going to catch him. He was just getting in gear,” Baffert said.

The Midsummer Derby was Baffert’s first Travers win since 2001 with Point Given. Arrogate won his fourth straight race and is 4-for-5. The lightly-raced colt by Unbridled’s Song has been brought along slowly, but he’s clearly special. Arrogate earned an automatic entry into the Breeders’ Cup Classic November 5 at Santa Anita, as the Travers is a ‘Win and You’re In’ Breeders’ Cup race.

Arrogate won’t be overlooked when he returns to the West coast and makes his way to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. A star hit the scene Saturday at Saratoga, and reminded us that patience and preparation can payoff.

2016 Best Pal Stakes

Klimt Overpowers 2016 Best Pal Stakes

Klimt is officially on the board as a stakes winner after dominating the 2016 Best Pal Stakes. The Bob Baffert trainee has already set his sights on the Del Mar Futirity in early September as his follow up race. All horse players should be tracking this Triple Crown hopeful from here on in until further notice.

There was some early drama out of the gates as a couple horses seemed to get caught up, but the two two in the field quickly asserted themselves. Big League took the lead and pulled the pack around the only bend of the 6 1/2 furlong race. Klimt sat in second after a slow start, while Drafted paced in third as a 10/1 outside shot.

Almost immediately in to the final stretch, Thirstforlife punched up in to second place while Drafted quickly deteriorated in to a hot mess. He would eventually place 6th in a field of as many at the 2016 Best Pal Stakes. Doug O’Neill’s trainees would never factor in this race as Rinse and Repeat took 4th while Secret House limped in at 5th. The trainer won this race last year with Nyquist, who would go on to win the 2016 Kentucky Derby, but couldn’t repeat the success this year.

Down the stretch, this race became a battle between Big League and Klimt. But the eventual winner would not be denied as he throttled through the finish line in decisive fashion to claim the 2016 Best Pal Stakes and serve notice to the rest of his age grade that he’s ready for the big time. We’ll see if this was just a one-off in less than a month, but Baffert seems confident in his new star’s abilities.

With the victory Klimt paid out $4.00, $2.60, and $2.10. Big League rewarded $3.20 and $2.60 in second place. Thirsforlife submitted a respectable run and gave $3.00 back to his bettors as the show horse in the 2016 Best Pal Stakes.


Dortmund To Debut At San Diego Handicap?

The horse racing world has eagerly anticipated the return of Dortmund and news has been fairly sparse, but there’s been recent confirmation that the four-year old colt is set to make his 2016 debut at the San Diego Handicap. Unfortunately, that means that he could be barreling straight in to a stacked field that’s topped by California Chrome. Is he up for the task?

It’s been a long and winding road for the Bob Baffert specimen who remains one of the most visually impressive thoroughbreds on the circuit. Sired by champion Big Brown out of Our Josephina, Dortmund is an impressive 8-0-1 in ten races. Undoubtedly one of the Triple Crown considerations last season, he placed third at the Kentucky Derby and fourth at the Preakness Stakes in 2015 behind American Pharoah. A long layoff through last summer led to back-to-back triumphs at the Big Bear and the Native Diver Handicap, but he’s been struggling with injuries since.

They’re not the type that send off alarm bells. He had some bruised ribs and an assortment of ailments that kept him from debuting back in January at the San Pasqual Stakes, which was won by California Chrome. It’s obvious that his connections aren’t scared of the 2014 Horse of the Year and desire a matchup against perhaps the finest older horse in the business.

The long game for Dortmund is the same as many other big names. It’s more than likely that he follows California Chrome on his road to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, via the Pacific Classic. That race is part of the challenge series with the winner earning a berth straight in to the biggest race a the world championships. With or without a win, Dortmund has the stock and reputation to earn a place in that competition simply by being nominated.

But everything depends on how this horse has recovered from a long layoff. If Dortmund is unable to race in the San Diego Handicap, throwing him against the wolves at the Pacific Classic seems like an uneasy gamble. For now all we can do is keep our finger’s crossed and hope that the powerful and talented four-year old is capable of making the trip and getting back to the track, where he belongs.