January 24, 2018

Why skipping Dubai makes sense for Arrogate and other post-Pegasus thoughts

Arrogate's performance in the Pegasus World Cup made an unlikely trip to Dubai look potentially redundant (Adam Coglianese Photography)

Even before Arrogate’s tour de force in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) on Saturday, connections were on record saying the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) in late March was pretty much off the table. The reported long-range plan is now two or three starts before a repeat bid in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar in early November.

While it’s always interesting to see the best of America go and compete internationally, Arrogate truly has no other equal at what he does best anywhere in the world, and he doesn’t need to go all the way to Dubai to prove that (again). It also doesn’t hurt to have connections that don’t necessarily “need” the $6 million World Cup’s winner’s share and that aren’t obsessed with maximizing his revenue potential on the racetrack.

Even though the general fan presumably won’t have to max out their credit cards to go across the world to witness Arrogate’s next race, there remains only very limited opportunities left to see him in action. The great parlor game among fans and pundits now is to guess where he’ll show up before the Breeders’ Cup.

If all goes well health-wise, I’d be pleasantly surprised if Arrogate does not make his final Classic prep in the course-and-distance Pacific Classic (G1) in August. The timing between that race and the Breeders’ Cup should not be much different from the gap between the Travers (G1) and Classic last year, which worked out pretty well for all involved.

Will Arrogate stay home in California all spring and summer? It’s certainly possible, but a return trip to New York for the Met Mile (G1) and/or Whitney (G1) should offer some appeal. I suppose the handicap conditions of the grand, old Metropolitan can be modified or sent to the dust bin permanently if there is a bugaboo about attempts to make it a fair fight, though the Whitney might be too close on the calendar to the Pacific Classic for it to remain in the discussion long term.

He will ultimately never be able to show it over a great quantity of races, but Arrogate has already proven to be a singular talent. Ed DeRosa has already written of his Brisnet Speed Ratings and how they compare with others going back to the early 1990s. Use any other popular speed figure scale you care to and you come up with the same results.

It won’t take more than another significant win for him to be an indisputable future Hall of Famer. Provided there are no significant hiccups the rest of the year, I think he’s already worthy of first ballot induction. Perusing a list of those with plaques in Saratoga Springs, I see several that arguably don’t belong or whose accomplishments pale in comparison to what Arrogate has done in just three stakes appearances. Some of those same horses won fewer divisional titles than Arrogate already has.

It was obviously disappointing that California Chrome was unable to run to par in the Pegasus World Cup, though I doubt he would have denied Arrogate the victory even if he had been at full strength. Arrogate just seemed to be on a slightly higher plane going in and, in a surprise to me, a plurality of bettors felt the same way.

The Pegasus World Cup crowd was estimated between 15,000-20,000 (Ron Flatter photo)

The Pegasus World Cup can be judged a success insofar as it attracted the two best horses in training. It could hardly not with an opportunity for the winner to reap a minimum $6 million profit from a $1 million investment. However, as Gulfstream president Tim Ritvo discussed with Ron Flatter, the economic viability isn’t there yet. I’ll leave it up to the founders of the event to find a way to change that, if they can, but it won’t necessarily be easy if a significant talent gap between participants is again evident in 2018.

I also get the criticism that running this race over 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream is not exactly fair and that increasing the distance to 1 1/4 miles would at least help level the field for those saddled with outside posts. On the flip side, increasing the distance might have the negative effect of widening the gap even more between the few, true mile and a quarter types the industry still produces and their competitors, some of which may find nine furlongs already a stretch. If the latter are dissuaded from taking a shot because of a distance increase, the race might have trouble surviving in its current form.

Having not been in attendance at Gulfstream on Saturday, I can’t speak to the atmosphere and general aesthetics of it playing host to the Pegasus. There’s a lot to be said about a smaller yet crowded venue generating a stronger vibe, but my gut also tells me that an event of this magnitude probably deserves a site capable of serving perhaps twice the number that squeezed in on Saturday. We can’t expect such a noteworthy match-up like this every year, but I’d think the demand for tickets and admission would still be there.

Unfortunately, due to present scheduling and the sport’s historical trajectory of seeing timeless venues capable of hosting decent-sized crowds either wasted away or confined to rubble, alternatives are limited to say the least.

10 Comments on Why skipping Dubai makes sense for Arrogate and other post-Pegasus thoughts

  1. Bon Voyage California Chrome! Bienvenue Arrogate! I am now fully onboard this horse and would love to watch him run in Dubai but I’m going to tune in whenever.

  2. So upsettng that such a great horse will only run 3 or 4 races this year before they most likely will retire him. It’s owners like these that have caused horse racing to decline from the heights that it experienced thru 70’s. Shame on these selfish idiots, were they all like C Chrome’s handlers who cared enuff about the sport and the fans choosing to run him as much as they could for as long as they could.

  3. I give kudos to Chrome’s owners for running him as long as he did, but must note that had he won the Triple Crown in 2014, he would likely have been retired after his 3-year-old season, and had he not had the injuries, etc. at four he would have been retired then. After Taylor Made bought in they wanted to run him to help boost his stallion potential. It paid off handsomely, so kudos to them, but I’m a bit of a cynic so I don’t believe they were really doing it “for the good of the sport.”

    As for Arrogate, I agree 100 percent and would love to see him run 5-6 more times this year, but it seems that’s unlikely. I also think he’s likely to remain in California, which is a shame, but with the Breeder’s Cup at Del Mar there is no reason for him to leave.

  4. No equal anywhere in the world? Do you look beyond your borders? Winx is not his equal, she’s his superior. Her record is far better and she’s a better horse. He’s won 2 open G1s.

    • The actual quote was “Arrogate truly has no other [sic] equal at what he does best anywhere in the world,” which means running 1 1/4 miles on dirt. Winx is a superstar, granted, but could she beat him doing that? We’ll likely never know, but I have my doubts. Just as I would doubt Arrogate beating her at any distance on turf.

  5. I stand corrected. She probably wouldn’t beat him on dirt, nor vice versa. But there’s an obvious Northern Hemisphere bias here. He won a 3-horse claimer, then an average Travers (granted it was an exceptional win in fast time), then a champion in the Breeders, then a field of moderates (excluding Chrome who failed dismally and showed he was ready for retirement). Winx beat the world no. 8 past 2 starts, Arrogate beat a horse rated in the 200s. She has won 14 straight & 9 G1s.

    The rankings have always been flawed and this is another example. Papal Bull never won a G1 and was rated no. 4. Black Caviar was unbeaten in 25 starts and 15 G1s and got a 132 high rating despite being the bets sprinter in world history.

    • Arrogate did not win a “3-horse claimer.” He won a 5-horse allowance where none of the other horses were entered for the optional claiming tag.

      While I respect your frustration, the subject of which is way beyond the scope of this piece, a reminder that the International Rankings are not about a horse’s total body of work but only reflects their single best (or most highly rated) performance in any given year. Duke of Marmalade’s win in the 2008 King George VI and QE was one of the most highly-rated races of that year, according to these authorities, thus Papal Bull’s half-length loss was also highly rated irrespective of what he did the rest of the year.

      It’s not necessarily a system I would use to classify horses, especially between continents (which I think is generally impossible anyway), but that’s how it works. In the sense that it’s “biased,” to use your term, it’s the way European authorities have been classifying horses and determining highweights by sex, age, and distance for decades. They would argue that this is not a flaw or bug, but that it’s a feature.

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