One week after California Chrome claimed a second Horse of the Year title over Arrogate in a runaway at the polls, his younger rival turned in his own runaway performance in their highly anticipated re-match in Saturday’s $12 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream Park, the richest Thoroughbred race ever run.
Arrogate broke well from post 1 while California Chrome, hung out in post 12, raced five wide into the first turn, but the two eventually raced together in the second flight behind Noble Bird, who set an early pace of :23.46 and :46.14.
What appeared to be a virtual match race on paper looked to be developing in reality as the combatants approached the far turn, but when Arrogate smoothly moved off the inside to make a three-wide bid for the lead under Mike Smith, California Chrome failed to respond in turn to jockey Victor Espinoza’s urgings.
“Once I got out going into the far turn I knew we were going to be very tough to beat,” Smith said.
Halfway around the turn, Arrogate assumed control and, with California Chrome laboring, would find no serious challenge to his supremacy over the American turf in the final quarter mile.
The 9-10 favorite in the Pegasus World Cup, which supplanted the old Donn Handicap on Gulfstream’s schedule, Arrogate won handsomely by 4 3/4 lengths in a time of 1:47.61 for 1 1/8 miles on a fast track. He paid $3.80 to win.
Grade 1 winner Shaman Ghost, owned by Frank Stronach, the proprietor of Gulfstream, rallied for second at odds of 19-1. It was another 3 1/2 lengths back to 23-1 chance Neolithic. Rounding out the finish were Keen Ice, War Story, Noble Bird, Semper Fortis, Breaking Lucky, California Chrome, Prayer for Relief, War Envoy, and Eragon.
California Chrome, who was sent off as the 6-5 second choice and whose legion of fans hoped to see him wind up his illustrious career with a victory, was not persevered with in the run to the wire. The dual Horse of the Year, classic winner, and divisional champion wound up beaten 29 1/2 lengths.
“I kept waiting for the match-up with Chrome, but he just didn’t bring his race today. It’s too bad,” said Bob Baffert, the trainer of Arrogate.
California Chrome reportedly wasn’t exactly right in his right front leg when returning to the barn, and X-rays were to be taken.
“California Chrome just wasn’t himself today; he didn’t break well,” trainer Art Sherman said. “But down the backstretch he had a chance, and no excuses.”
Hoping to become the first Thoroughbred in American racing history to surpass $20 million in career earnings, California Chrome will now enter stud at Taylor Made with a record of 26-16-4-1, $14,502,650, still tops on the all-time list among American-based runners.
The $7 million first-place check for Arrogate pushed his career earnings to $11,084,600 from a line of 7-6-0-1. The four-year-old by Unbridled’s Song, owned by Juddmonte Farms, remains undefeated from three starts in stakes company. After dropping his six-furlong debut at Los Alamitos last April, the gray reeled off three straight overnight wins before turning in a record-shattering performance in the Travers (G1) at Saratoga, winning by 13 1/2 lengths and breaking the 37-year-old track record for 1 1/4 miles in 1:59 1/5.
The second choice to California Chrome in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Santa Anita on November 5, Arrogate surged in the final furlong to beat his older rival by a half-length, a victory that propelled him to champion three-year-old male honors despite the limited stakes campaign. However, it was not enough to displace California Chrome, who garnered more than 80 percent of the electorate, in the race for Horse of the Year honors.
Bred in Kentucky by Clearsky Farms, Arrogate was reared by the Distorted Humor mare Bubbler and sold for $560,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. His third dam was the 1990 champion juvenile filly Meadow Star.
Handle at Gulfstream on Saturday for the 12-race card was more than $40.2 million, a record at the track for a non-Breeders’ Cup card.