Amid all of the profuse comments about Arrogate ahead of Saturday’s $12 million Pegasus World Cup (G1), Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert disclosed the most significant information to Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman Thursday:
How much of a concern should this be for bettors? Does this sow a seed of doubt that the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner can repeat his feat of beating California Chrome? Does it negate his potential advantage from Monday’s post draw, when Arrogate landed on the rail and California Chrome was parked on the extreme outside in 12?
Privman provided a fair amount of reassurance:
Still, the news reminded me of some perceptive commentary from clocker Bruno De Julio. Earlier this month, De Julio tweeted that Arrogate wasn’t training as brilliantly as he had prior to the Breeders’ Cup. His expert eye had picked up on subtle clues about Arrogate’s behavior that presented a cautionary flag at that time. If that coincided with the initial management phase of the abscess, the pieces of the puzzle come together. Since then, De Julio has been tight-lipped about what he’s seeing from Arrogate in the most recent moves, other than a laconic “OK.” (So be sure to check out his “Bruno with the Works” product for his full insight for the Pegasus.)
I’m also now wondering whether the foot issue might have been a factor in Arrogate’s scratching from the January 1 San Pasqual (G2). Before running amok with speculation, however, Baffert had been hedging about whether Arrogate would get in a Pegasus prep or not. It’s not as though Baffert were dead-set about needing a prep, then had to go to Plan B.
But the best news of all for us Arrogate fans is that Baffert has apparently succeeded in weathering the storm and presenting him in peak condition. We won’t know definitively until the race is run, but the very fact he’s gotten such a strong series of drills into Arrogate, and felt confident enough to ship, speaks volumes.
The Pegasus simply means too much, not only as the world’s richest race, but for historical context. If Arrogate goes out and beats “Chrome” again, over a nine-furlong trip that’s theoretically better for Chrome, he’ll quash the excuses and hand-wringing over the Breeders’ Cup result. If Arrogate loses, he’ll still have the rest of the year to dazzle the racing world, and build his legacy. But he’ll never get another chance to confirm the Breeders’ Cup verdict over Chrome, and that raises the stakes considerably – for both of them – here.
If Arrogate had a less patient owner who was badgering Baffert about a $12 million race, I would have more cause for pause. Prince Khalid Abdullah has never been, and never will be, that kind of owner. If Baffert had the slightest scruple about whether this right hind foot would be an issue, he’d back off and regroup, and Prince Khalid would endorse his decision.
Baffert’s given the green light, and that’s good enough for me.
“He wouldn’t have gotten on that plane unless he was ‘super cherry’,” Baffert told Gulfstream publicity, explaining his idiosyncratic term.
“I always used super cherry when I was younger. If he’s super cherry then he can do whatever he wants…
“We’re good. Everything is good.”
Perhaps I’m more inclined toward optimism as a correction (overcorrection?) to my nagging, and misplaced, fears about American Pharoah’s foot after his injury that knocked him out of the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). Through the spring of 2015, I fretted over his specially-shod hoof. Would it hold up, how much it was influencing his prep path, would it be an obstacle affecting the fitness of a horse whose maternal line was all speed. In the process, I began to talk myself off a horse I otherwise loved, and only came to my senses in time for the Belmont (G1).
To be sure, the cases of American Pharoah and Arrogate are different, and I won’t press an apples-to-oranges comparison. American Pharoah actually needed a half-plate shoe, according to American Farriers Journal. Arrogate’s in a three-quarter shoe. There is one overarching commonality, though: the outstanding horsemanship of Baffert and his whole team, including his farrier!
Arrogate might still get beaten, whether by a poor break, bad luck, freak mishap, or Chrome saving a career-best for his last hurrah. I don’t think it would be because of this particular foot issue.
Bottom line: if you’re an Arrogate booster like me, I wouldn’t let this news dash my expectations. Here’s hoping for a clear passing of the baton, from one surefire Hall of Famer in California Chrome, to his rightful successor.