DEL MAR, Calif. — The best of Arrogate seemed a world away when the sun set Saturday night in Southern California.
The Arrogate who thrilled the world with his last-to-first victory in the $10 million Dubai World Cup in March was not the Arrogate the world has seen since. He ended his career in Saturday’s $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic dead-heating for fifth-place with Gunnevera, 6 1/4 lengths behind the winner Gun Runner, the horse he beat in Dubai seven months ago.
“He’s not the same horse,” said Bob Baffert, Arrogate’s trainer. “I tried to get him there.”
The loss was the third straight for Arrogate since the Dubai World Cup, all three coming at Del Mar, which hosted the Breeders’ Cup for the first time in the 34-year history of the series. Though Arrogate won an allowance race here in the summer of 2016, he didn’t take to the surface this year, finishing fourth of five in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap in July and second to Collected in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic in August.
“When he’s runs his A race, he’s truly one of the fastest horses we’ve ever seen. He just won’t run over here,” said Mike Smith, Arrogate’s jockey. “I tried to talk myself into thinking he would, but he’s just shown me time and time again that he wouldn’t.”
Arrogate’s race was over pretty much at the start. Breaking from the rail, Arrogate broke inward. A horse that likes to be forwardly placed, Arrogate was eighth after the opening quarter-mile, 7 1/2 lengths behind Gun Runner. After six furlongs, Arrogate was 10th, 10 1/4 lengths back.
Though he made a brief run around the far turn, he was never a threat.
“There was a time or two where all of sudden he’d get up and go for a jump, but it’d be two jumps later he’d [lose his action],” Smith said, moving his arms in awkward motion. Smith said in the stretch Arrogate was “just going through the motions.”
Though he went out with a whimper, Arrogate certainly left his mark on the sport. He will retire with a record of 7-1-1 from 11 starts and career earnings of $17,422,600, the richest of any North American-based Thoroughbred.
As a 3-year-old, Arrogate burst onto the scene in Saratoga, winning the Grade 1 Travers by 13 1/2 lengths in a track-record time of 1:59.36 for 1 1/4 miles. Off a 10-week layoff, he defeated the 2014 Horse of the Year, California Chrome, in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita. Despite that victory, Arrogate was voted only 3-year-old champion, while California Chrome won a second Horse of the Year title.
Arrogate began this year with a victory over California Chrome in the inaugural $12 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream. In Dubai, he blew the break but had the wherewithal to rally from last and beat Gun Runner by 2 1/4 lengths, establishing himself as the top-ranked Thoroughbred in the world.
“He gave us some fantastic thrills,” Baffert said.
Those thrills will be what Garrett O’Rourke, the president of Juddmonte Farms, which owns Arrogate and which will stand him at stud beginning next year, will remember.
“I’m going to put this aside immediately and return to all the memories of all those fantastic victories, when he showed us that he was one of the greatest horses we’ve ever seen, borne out by the fact that he broke track records, he produced eye-popping visual performances and he beat great horses and he beat them very, very easily,” O’Rourke said. “We’re going to go back to reliving those memories and try to make some babies that can run like him and be as brilliant as he was.”