by Jon White
July 20, 2017
The wait is almost over.
To the delight of a great many racing enthusiasts, Arrogate gets back to business this Saturday at Del Mar in the Grade II San Diego Handicap, a 1 1/16-mile affair that has drawn a field of six. This will be Arrogate’s first start since a sensational last-to-first victory in the Group I, $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 25.
Arrogate has won seven in a row since he finished third when making his career debut in a six-furlong maiden sprint at Los Alamitos on April 17, 2016. The Kentucky-bred Unbridled’s Song colt was voted a 2016 Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male.
What is the distance of the San Diego? It is 1 1/16 miles. That does not bode well for Arrogate’s opponents. Arrogate has never lost when competing in a race at 1 1/16 miles or longer.
Of course anything can happen. Even mighty Man o’ War got beat once. As great as Secretariat was, he lost five races. But if Arrogate does not extend his winning streak to eight this Saturday, it will have to rank as one of the most shocking results in Del Mar history. I’d say it probably would be the biggest upset at the seaside establishment since Dare and Go ambushed 1-10 Cigar in the 1996 Pacific Classic to snap Cigar’s 16-race winning streak.
After Arrogate’s sparkling seven-furlong drill in 1:25.60 at Santa Anita Park on July 8, he covered six furlongs in an excellent 1:11 flat at the Great Race Place last Saturday in his final workout before the San Diego. Arrogate worked in company with Cat Burglar, who was timed in 1:11.80. Cat Burglar, who also is entered in the San Diego, finished second in the Grade III Precisionist Stakes at Santa Anita on June 24.
If you are interested in seeing Arrogate’s July 15 workout, here is a link to it on the XBTV website: http://www.xbtv.com/video/workout/arrogate-outside-worked-6-furlongs-in-111-00-at-santa-anita-park-on-july-15th-2017/
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who won the Triple Crown in 2015 with American Pharoah, thinks the world of Arrogate. Baffert has called Arrogate an “unbelievable super horse.”
Arrogate is unanimously ranked No. 1 nationally in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll. Here is this week’s poll (first-place votes in parenthesis):
1. Arrogate (38)
2. Gun Runner
4. Mor Spirit
5. Stellar Wind
6. Mind Your Biscuits
7. Shaman Ghost
8. Lady Eli
9. Lady Aurelia
10. Keen Ice
Not surprisingly, Arrogate also is a heavy even-money favorite to win this year’s Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar on Nov. 4 in the future book at the Wynn Race Book in Las Vegas. Here are those odds as of July 14:
7-1 Gun Runner
8-1 Shaman Ghost
18-1 Cloud Computing
20-1 Classic Empire
20-1 Keen Ice
25-1 Mor Spirit
45-1 Irish War Cry
45-1 Tu Brutus
50-1 Midnight Storm
50-1 Practical Joke
50-1 Senior Investment
60-1 Always Dreaming
60-1 Highland Reel
60-1 Thunder Snow
75-1 American Freedom
75-1 Battle of Midway
75-1 Lookin At Lee
75-1 War Decree
75-1 War Story
75-1 West Coast
85-1 Lancaster Bomber
100-1 Battalion Runner
100-1 Long River
100-1 Special Fighter
150-1 Guest Suite
150-1 Mo Town
ANOTHER GRADE I VICTORY FOR SONGBIRD
Songbird, currently ranked No. 3 nationally in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll, won last Saturday’s Grade I Delaware Handicap as an overwhelming 1-20 favorite. But it wasn’t easy.
Encumbered with top weight of 124 pounds in the 1 1/4-mile event, Songbird was asked to spot her four rivals from eight to 13 pounds. The longer a race, the more conceding so much weight can be a hindrance.
Mike Smith again had the riding assignment. The Hall of Famer has been aboard Songbird in all 14 of her career starts.
Songbird set a moderate early pace while leading by 2 1/2 lengths through preliminary fractions of :24.26 and :48.36. Stalking her was the second choice in the wagering, Martini Glass, who was 21-1. No, that is not a typo as a result of having too many martinis. Other than Songbird, nobody in the race was a shorter price than 21-1.
Turning for home, Martini Glass moved up readily to get within about a neck of Songbird, who had been rating nicely for Smith. Songbird pretty easily shrugged off that initial challenge to increase her lead to one length with a furlong to go. But Songbird never could put away Martini Glass during the stretch run. Under left-handed encouragement from Smith in the final furlong, Songbird won by one length in 2:03.96. Martini Glass finished second. Line of Best Fit ended up third, two lengths behind Martini Glass.
Trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, Songbird has been defeated only once in 14 lifetime starts, a nose loss to multiple Eclipse Award winner Beholder in last year’s BC Distaff at Santa Anita. (Songbird now is a multiple Eclipse Award winner herself, having been voted champion 2-year-old filly of 2015 and champion 3-year-old filly of 2016.)
When Songbird registered her ninth Grade I win last Saturday, she did have to pack eight pounds more than Martini Glass and 11 more than Line of Best Fit. But it also should be pointed out that neither Martini Glass nor Line of Best Fit has ever won a graded stakes race. In fact, it’s worse than that. Neither Martini Glass nor Line of Best has ever won a single stakes race. In other words, Songbird was not running against anyone close to as good as, say, Stellar Wind or Forever Unbridled.
Yes, Songbird did beat both Stellar Wind and Forever Unbridled in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff last year. But keep in mind Stellar Wind had a horrible start that day, while Forever Unbridled finished only 1 1/4 lengths behind Songbird.
What some can’t help wondering after Songbird’s first two races this year is whether the Songbird of 2017 is as good as the Songbird of 2016. In her 2017 debut, she did not dazzle when she won Belmont Park’s Grade I Ogden Phipps Stakes by one length at 1 1/16 miles on June 10. But in her defense it was her first race since Nov. 4.
And then Songbird had a pretty darn tough time winning the Del Cap by the same margin. But again, in her defense, she was spotting a pretty good chunk of weight to her opponents while going 1 1/4 miles on a track she had never raced on before.
With a final time of almost 2:04, I certainly did not expect Songbird’s Beyer Speed Figure for her victory last Saturday to be very good. It wasn’t. The 4-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Medaglia d’Oro was assigned a 93 Beyer, down from her 97 in the Phipps.
Songbird was good enough last year to register three triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures. She was assigned a 105 when she finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, a 101 when she won the Cotillion at Parx and also a 101 when she won the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga.
Will Songbird get back to the triple-digit Beyer level this year? Maybe. Maybe not. I do know it is not a good idea to ever underestimate a filly who has won 13 of 14 career starts, with her lone blemish a defeat as a 3-year-old by about an inch to an older Beholder.
By the way, it sure was wonderful to see Songbird’s 77-year-old owner, Rick Porter (Fox Hill Farms), who has been battling lymphoma, lead his filly into the winner’s circle after the Del Cap. Just two days before the race, Porter had been released from Massachusetts General Hospital after undergoing a clinical trial for his disease.
Porter, a Delaware native, has fond memories of going to the races at Delaware Park as a youngster with his parents. The Del Cap is a race Porter has long wanted to win, but he had been zero for two in it until last Saturday. Porter finished fourth with Jostle in the 2001 Del Cap and second with Havre de Grace in the 2011 renewal. Havre de Grace lost by a nose to Blind Luck at the end of a fierce stretch battle.
Havre de Grace was voted 2011 Eclipse Awards as Horse of the Year and champion older mare. Blind Luck was voted a 2010 Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old filly.
Larry Jones trained Havre de Grace. Hollendorfer conditioned Blind Luck.
Six years after Hollendorfer beat Porter in the 2011 Del Cap, it was none other than Hollendorfer who managed to get a Del Cap victory for Porter with Songbird to fulfill a longtime wish by the owner.
EARLY BREEDERS’ CUP DISTAFF ODDS
The Wynn Race Book in Las Vegas has posted its early odds for the BC Distaff at Del Mar on Nov. 3. Songbird is the favorite. Personally, I like Stellar Wind at 4-1. Here are the Wynn’s BC Distaff odds as of July 14:
4-1 Stellar Wind
5-1 Unique Bella
8-1 Abel Tasman
8-1 Forever Unbridled
8-1 Paradise Woods
12-1 Vale Dori
20-1 Holy Helena
25-1 Unchained Melody
30-1 It Tiz Well
60-1 Sweet Loretta
85-1 My Miss Tapit
100-1 Ever So Clever
100-1 Shane’s Girlfriend
MY EARLY HASKELL ODDS
I expect Timeline and Irish War Cry to vie for favoritism in Monmouth Park’s Grade I Haskell Invitational at 1 1/8 miles on July 30.
Timeline, trained by Chad Brown, is undefeated in four career starts. He won this year’s Grade III Peter Pan Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths on a sloppy track at Belmont Park on May 13 and Grade III Pegasus Stakes by the same margin at Monmouth Park on June 18.
Irish War Cry, conditioned by Graham Motion, won this year’s Grade II Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 4 and Grade II Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 8. He finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby on May 6 and second in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.
These are my early Haskell odds:
3-1 Irish War Cry
4-1 Practical Joke
8-1 Battle of Midway
20-1 Impressive Edge
ALL-TIME HASKELL FIELD & MY ODDS
Monmouth has announced that to celebrate this year’s 50th running of the Haskell, the track has an All-Time Haskell Great Simulated Race that matches what has been deemed to be the 12 greatest Haskell winners.
In post position order, this is the field for the All-Time Haskell Great Simulated Race, along with my odds:
1. Skip Away (5-1)
2. Holy Bull (4-1)
3. Big Brown (15-1)
4. Forty Niner (12-1)
5. Serena’s Song (30-1)
6. Point Given (6-1)
7. Bet Twice (12-1)
8. Wajima (8-1)
9. American Pharoah (5-2)
10. War Emblem (20-1)
11. Rachel Alexandra (10-1)
12. Majestic Light (30-1)