December 17, 2017

Arrogate tackles 13 rivals, and history, in Dubai World Cup

Arrogate takes a tour of Meydan on Monday morning (Melanie Martines @SkimtheRail photo)

Juddmonte Farms’ phenom Arrogate goes for history in Saturday’s $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) at Meydan, where he stands to become North America’s all-time richest Thoroughbred.

In last year’s World Cup, California Chrome achieved that distinction – and set the about 1 1/4-mile track record of 2:01.83.

When Arrogate toppled California Chrome in the November 5 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), the baton appeared to be passed to racing’s newest superstar. That verdict was confirmed in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) on January 28, as Arrogate romped in track-record time, and California Chrome finished ninth in his swan song.

Now Arrogate brings his six-race winning streak into the Dubai World Cup. Unbeaten since his third on debut, the Bob Baffert trainee first served notice of his exceptional talent with a track-record Travers (G1) conquest. Last year’s champion three-year-old colt has gone from strength to strength since, and appears poised to add his name to the World Cup honor roll.

If Arrogate performs up to expectations, the $6 million winner’s check would boost his bankroll to a North American record $17,084,600, well surpassing California Chrome’s total of $14,752,650. Arrogate would also turn the Breeders’ Cup Classic/World Cup double previously accomplished by Cigar (1995 BC Classic/1996 World Cup), Pleasantly Perfect (2003/2004), Invasor (2006/2007), and Curlin (2007/2008).

When the World Cup field was finalized Monday, 13 rivals stood their ground against Arrogate. None is close to him according to the international ratings, with Arrogate pegged at a lofty 134.

See also: Arrogate draws post 9 in Dubai World Cup

The joint second-best on the ratings at 118 are fellow American Gun Runner and Japan’s Awardee.

Gun Runner competed at a consistently high level last season, bookended by victories in the Risen Star (G2)/Louisiana Derby (G2) and the Clark H. (G1) versus older horses. The Steve Asmussen pupil also placed in such marquee events as the Kentucky Derby (G1), Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and Arrogate’s Travers. Gun Runner opened 2017 with a superb display in the Razorback H. (G3) at Oaklawn, and the classy colt figures to produce his typically strong performance.

Awardee, a half-brother to World Cup rival Lani, is a far more reliable customer. He’s never been out of the top two since switching to dirt, and capped a six-race winning spree in the JBC Classic. Awardee has been runner-up in his last pair. Just nabbed in the Champions Cup (former Japan Cup Dirt) (G1) in a last-stride mugging, he was then upset by Apollo Kentucky in the Tokyo Daishoten (G1). Both Awardee and Apollo Kentucky make their seasonal reappearances here.

Mikio Matsunaga also trains Awardee’s inscrutable half-brother Lani, who hasn’t won since taking last year’s UAE Derby (G2). Although the moody gray progressed through all three jewels of the American Triple Crown, culminating with a third in the Belmont (G1), Lani has gone the wrong way of late. He was never really engaged in the local prep, the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1), where he was beaten 16 lengths in sixth.

Rounding out Team Japan is Gold Dream, who’d left Lani back in fifth in last year’s Hyacinth S. at Tokyo. On the corresponding card this season, Gold Dream just scored a new career high in the February S. (G1). Like Lani and Apollo Kentucky, he’d been unplaced in the Champions Cup, underscoring the idea that Awardee is Japan’s leading World Cup contender.

Four entrants had competed against California Chrome in the 2016 World Cup – runner-up Mubtaahij, third-placer Hoppertunity, fourth Special Fighter, and eighth Keen Ice.

The Mike de Kock-trained Mubtaahij was one of the stars of the 2015 Dubai Carnival, crowned by an eight-length romp in the UAE Derby (G2). He was subsequently eighth in the Kentucky Derby and fourth in the Belmont to Triple Crown sweeper American Pharoah. Back for another U.S. campaign last summer, Mubtaahij was temporarily transferred to Kiaran McLaughlin. His best effort was a near-miss in the Woodward (G1). Reunited with de Kock in Dubai, Mubtaahij wasn’t moving well and got behind on his training. As a result, he’s had only one prep race, a useful second in the Curlin H. at the World Cup trip.

Hoppertunity, Arrogate’s stablemate, gives Baffert a shot at the exacta. The winner of last fall’s Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) as well as the 2014 Clark, the six-year-old veteran has amassed more than $4 million in his career. Hoppertunity prepped the same way as last year, with a victory in the San Antonio (G2). But he wasn’t within the same zip code as Arrogate when fourth in the BC Classic.

Locally based Special Fighter was in career-best form a year ago, having crushed the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3, but he’s been playing catch-up this term. Sidelined since the 2016 World Cup, he returned for new trainer Maria Ritchie with a second to the surprising Long River in the March 4 renewal of Round 3.

Keen Ice, whose signature win in the 2015 Travers came at the shocking expense of American Pharoah, hasn’t won in the interim. Switched from Dale Romans to Todd Pletcher last year, the son of Curlin has been drubbed by Arrogate when third in the BC Classic and a late-running fourth in the Pegasus.

Pletcher is double-handed with Neolithic, a lightly raced four-year-old who exits a third in the Pegasus. Second in last November’s Discovery (G3) in his only prior stakes appearance, he’s expected to be on or near the early lead in the World Cup.

The top four finishers from the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 all renew rivalry. Front-running upsetter Long River snapped a long losing skid for Salem bin Ghadayer, but looks up against it to duplicate that performance in the World Cup. Aside from the aforementioned Special Fighter, third-placer Furia Cruzada and fourth Move Up take him on again here. Furia Cruzada, a champion in her native Chile, compiled a respectable European turf campaign in 2016 and made her Dubai debut a winning one in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2). She’s eligible to do better with a more contested pace. Move Up, the lone representative for past World Cup powerhouse Godolphin, has scored his marquee wins at 1 1/2 miles on turf in the Bosphorus Cup (G2) and Ascot’s Cumberland Lodge (G3). The Saeed bin Suroor charge could move forward in his second dirt try, especially being by Dubawi.

Wednesday update: Here’s the full field after the post position draw.

Screenshot from emiratesracing.com

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