by Jon White
August 17, 2017
Will Arrogate regain his top form and crush his foes, just as he did in the Travers, Pegasus World Cup and Dubai World Cup?
Is Arrogate going to get the victory, but have to battle for it?
Will Arrogate get beat again, but at least run decently in defeat this time?
Is Arrogate going to struggle and lose by a big margin, as he did in the July 22 San Diego Handicap?
Will Accelerate or Collected win even though they are racing beyond 1 1/8 miles for the first time?
Are Collected’s marvelous Del Mar workouts an indication that he going to run a big race and succeed no matter how well Arrogate, Accelerate or anybody else runs?
Will there be a big upset, with someone other than Arrogate, Accelerate or Collected prevailing?
Those are just some of the many tantalizing questions that will be answered this Saturday when Del Mar’s Grade I, $1 million Pacific Classic is decided at 1 1/4 miles on the dirt.
Eight are entered in the Pacific Classic. Arrogate drew the outside post. Here is the field, with Russ Hudak’s morning line in parenthesis:
1. Royal Albert Hall (30-1)
2. Collected (5-2)
3. Accelerate (3-1)
4. Sorry Erik (30-1)
5. Hard Aces (20-1)
6. Donworth (15-1)
7. Curlin Road (20-1)
8. Arrogate (1-1)
The Arrogate to have started in the Grade II San Diego Handicap on July 22 seemed to be an imposter. “Fake news” is a term that is frequently heard these days. Well, the Arrogate who ran in the San Diego seemed to be a “fake Arrogate.”
The real Arrogate won the 2016 Travers Stakes, 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic, 2017 Pegasus World Cup and 2017 Dubai World Cup for trainer Bob Baffert. The real Arrogate was the best horse seen since Secretariat, according to Baffert. The real Arrogate was proclaimed “the Man o’ War of the 21st century,” by track announcer Terry Spargo during his call of this year’s Dubai World Cup.
The fake Arrogate lost the recent 1 1/16-mile San Diego by 15 1/4 lengths while finishing fourth behind Accelerate (who won by 8 1/2 lengths), Donworth and Cat Burglar. Arrogate’s defeat in the San Diego no doubt ranks as one of the biggest upsets in the 80-year history of Del Mar, right up there with 1-10 Cigar’s defeat in the 1996 Pacific Classic when Dare and Go was victorious and snapped Cigar’s 16-race winning streak.
Now racing fans eagerly await this Saturday’s Pacific Classic to see whether the real Arrogate or the fake Arrogate shows up.
SKEPTICISM SEEMS JUSTIFIED
Baffert said Arrogate “laid an egg” in the San Diego. Afterward, the Hall of Fame trainer vowed that Arrogate will recover and win the Pacific Classic. Baffert even suggested Arrogate will never lose another race.
However, in light of Arrogate’s lackluster effort in the San Diego, it seems reasonable for anyone to have at least some difficulty trusting him this Saturday. A healthy dose of skepticism seems perfectly understandable.
In the San Diego, did Arrogate struggle when running on the dirt at Del Mar? Whether that did or did not contribute to his defeat, it appears a number of horses have spun their wheels, so to speak, on the surface this summer. For example, a pair of Baffert-trained 2-year-olds, Diamondsandpearls and Serengeti, seemingly struggled while racing on the dirt at Del Mar.
When Diamondsandpearls raced on the dirt at Santa Anita in her career debut on July 2, she won a maiden race by 6 1/4 lengths. But in the Aug. 5 Sorrento Stakes on the dirt at Del Mar, it looked like she never did pick up her feet after not breaking alertly. She finished fourth and lost by 16 lengths at odds of 7-5.
Serengeti won a maiden race on the dirt at Santa Anita by 11 lengths on June 25. But in last Saturday’s Best Pal Stakes on the dirt at Del Mar, he finished sixth and lost by 10 lengths after an awkward start as the 6-5 favorite.
An indication to me that Diamondsandpearls and Serengeti did not care for running on the dirt at Del Mar is neither even showed any early zip, something they both had done at Santa Anita.
Through the years, Del Mar’s dirt oval has had its share of problems in terms of equine injuries. With the Breeders’ Cup to be held at the seaside establishment for the first time this fall on Nov. 3-4, Del Mar quite understandably has made it a top priority to have a main track that produces as few equine injuries as possible. Thus, with an emphasis on safety, track officials were pleased to report that, in the first 16 days of the current meet, only one horse suffered a catastrophic injury when racing on the main track.
However, a number of trainers have grumbled about what they believe is an especially “tiring” main track at Del Mar this summer. For instance, in a Daily Racing Form story last week written by Steve Andersen, trainer Jeff Mullins called the surface “loose and tiring.” Mullins said his stable “has seen soft-tissue injuries this summer.”
Mullins was concerned enough about Del Mar’s main track that he went so far as to ship his highly regarded 2-year-old colt Tatters to Riches to San Luis Rey Downs on Aug. 8 for a four-furlong workout in :47 4/5 rather than work him on Del Mar’s main track.
Tatters to Riches, a $1 million auction purchase in April, won a maiden race by 1 1/4 lengths at Del Mar on July 29 as a 3-5 favorite.
Trainer Peter Miller also voiced his displeasure of Del Mar’s main track to Andersen.
“It’s too deep and tiring,” Miller said.
Miller said that while he has a 20-horse string at Del Mar, he feels it is a big disadvantage to have most of his 95-horse stable based at San Luis Rey Downs, about 30 miles from Del Mar.
“I had no trouble shipping [from San Luis Rey Downs] to Santa Anita or Los Alamitos, but it doesn’t seem I can ship into Del Mar,” Miller said. “I don’t want to be the poster child of being a sore loser. I’ve lost plenty. If I’d known the track [at Del Mar] would be like this, I would put my first string there. I don’t want to do that midstream.”
Miller said he will be cutting back on the number of horses he runs at Del Mar during the rest of the summer meet.
Since Arrogate’s baffling loss in the San Diego, he has had three workouts on the dirt at Del Mar. He worked four furlongs on Aug. 1 in :47 1/5, seven furlongs on Aug. 8 in 1:25 1/5, then four furlongs Monday in :47 3/5.
Arrogate generally has received a “thumbs up” for those three drills. But the fact of the matter is that when Arrogate runs in the Pacific Classic, he will be doing so on the same track on which he ran a clunker in the San Diego. Nevertheless, Baffert expressed confidence Tuesday to Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman that the real Arrogate will show up in the Pacific Classic.
According to Privman, Baffert pushed his hands forward, like he was sitting at a poker table, and said, “I’m all in with Arrogate.”
Baffert told Privman one of the main reasons for giving Arrogate another chance on the dirt at Del Mar is because the Breeders’ Cup Classic will be run on that track this fall.
“If the Breeders’ Cup wasn’t here, maybe I’d have been reluctant to run him back,” Baffert said. “But we’ve got to find out.”
ACCELERATE, COLLECTED MERIT RESPECT
When Accelerate won the San Diego by 8 1/2 lengths and defeated Arrogate, it was not as if it was some big-time fluke. In fact, it was not the first time Accelerate has outrun Arrogate. When Arrogate finished third at Los Alamitos in 2016 in his career debut, Westbrook won and Accelerate finished second. And so it is that going into the Pacific Classic, Accelerate has defeated Arrogate both times they have met.
Another potential problem for Arrogate this Saturday is the presence of another colt who also resides in the Baffert barn. Many have raved about the way Collected has trained at Del Mar this summer. It appears he has thrived on the dirt there.
Not only has Collected seemingly trained liked a beast on the dirt at Del Mar, he has been impressive while winning each of his three 2017 starts, all on the dirt at Santa Anita.
In Collected’s 2017 debut, he won the Santana Mile on April 1 by 3 3/4 lengths. Next, he won the 1 1/16-mile Californian by the same margin on April 22. And then he romped to a 14-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile Precisionist on June 24, with Cat Burglar finishing second and Accelerate third. Accelerate and Cat Burglar then both beat Arrogate in the San Diego.
Collected’s Beyer Speed Figure pattern makes him scary this Saturday. He recorded a 101 in the Santana Mile, then a 104 in the Californian, then a 111 in the Precisionist. The 111 was the best of his career.
Accelerate likewise goes into the Pacific Classic off a career-best Beyer. He posted a 109 in the San Diego when racing with blinkers for the first time.
However, while Collected and Accelerate deserve credit for those 111 and 109 Beyer Speed Figures, those figures do not measure up to Arrogate’s 122 in the Travers, 120 in the BC Classic, 119 in the Pegasus World Cup.
ARROGATE ATOP NTRA POLL
Going into this Saturday’s Pacific Classic, Arrogate has been ranked No. 1 in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll for 29 consecutive weeks. Here is this week’s poll (first-place votes in parenthesis):
1. Arrogate (35)
2. Gun Runner (8)
3. Songbird (2)
4. Stellar Wind
5. Lady Eli
6. Mor Spirit
7. Mind Your Biscuits
8. Abel Tasman
9. Shaman Ghost
10. Lady Aurelia
If Arrogate wins the Pacific Classic, he certainly again will be No. 1 in the poll next week. But if he gets beat, Gun Runner then might well displace Arrogate in the top spot.
MY UPDATED TRAVERS TOP 10
Los Alamitos Derby winner West Coast remains atop my Travers Top 10 list this week, while Jim Dandy Stakes victor Good Samaritan remains No. 2. Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing makes a big move all the way up to No. 3 this week.
Cloud Computing finished last among the five starters in the Jim Dandy. But it appears he has trained much better for the Travers than for the Jim Dandy.
Saratoga’s Grade I Travers will be decided at 1 1/4 miles on Aug. 26.
Here is my up-to-date Travers Top 10:
1. West Coast
2. Good Samaritan
3. Cloud Computing
7. Always Dreaming
BROWN MAKES HISTORY AT ARLINGTON
Chad Brown, who was voted a 2016 Eclipse Award as outstanding trainer, became the first member of his profession to win Arlington Park’s Grade I Arlington Million and Grade I Beverly D. in the same year when he accomplished the feat last Saturday.
Brown sent out 9-2 Beach Patrol to win the Million and 6-1 Dacita to take the Beverly D.
Beach Patrol now is two for two on the grass at Arlington. He had lost six straight since winning the Grade I Secretariat Stakes on Arlington’s grass course in 2016.
Prior to the Beverly D., Dacita had lost three in a row since winning the Grade I Diana Stakes on the turf at Saratoga in 2016.
Beach Patrol recorded a 101 Beyer Speed Figure for his Arlington Million victory, well up from his 92 when he won the Secretariat. Dacita’s Beyer for her Beverly D. triumph was 102.
In the American Racing Manual, Beyer Speed Figures for the two races go back to 1990. Silvano’s 118 in 2001 is the highest Beyer for an Arlington Million winner going back to 1990. Memories of Silver’s 110 in 1997 is the top Beyer for a Beverly D. winner going back to 1990.
BELVOIR MAKES HISTORY AT EMERALD
Gold Rush Dancer registered an emphatic 4 3/4-length win in last Sunday’s Grade III, $200,000 Longacres Mile. This ended his five-race losing streak dating back to when he won Del Mar’s Real Good Deal Stakes on July 27, 2016.
The Longacres Mile was inaugurated in 1935, at which time it was the richest one-mile race in the nation with a purse of $12,350. Ever since its inception, it has been the most coveted race in the Pacific Northwest.
Vann Belvoir trains Gold Rush Dancer. Belvoir became the first person to train and ride a Longacres Mile winner. As a jockey, he won the 1994 renewal by a nose aboard 6-5 favorite Want a Winner. The Longacres Mile was held at Yakima Meadows in 1994 during the transition of racing in the Seattle area from Longacres, which closed in 1992, to Emerald Downs, which opened in 1996.
Mach One Rules, who finished second in the field of 12, started as the slight favorite in this year’s Longacres Mile. Mach One Rules and Gold Rush Dancer both were sent off at $3.20 to $1. It turned out that Mach One Rules ended up the actual betting favorite over Gold Rush Dancer by a mere $78.
Evin Roman, the 19-year-old apprentice sensation who currently leads all jockeys at Del Mar, rode Gold Rush Dancer last Sunday. It was the first of what no doubt will be many graded stakes victories for the talented Roman. This also was Gold Rush Dancer’s first graded stakes victory in his 18-race career. In 2015, Gold Rush Dancer won the biggest race in the Northwest for 2-year-olds, the Gottstein Futurity, named for Joe Gottstein, the man who built Longacres and introduced the Longacres Mile.
Gold Rush Dancer recorded a 97 Beyer Speed Figure for his Longacres Mile win. In the American Racing Manual, Beyer Speed Figures for the Longacres Mile go back to 1992. Wild Wonder’s 111 in 1998 is the highest Beyer for a Longacres Mile winner going back to 1992.
SOLAR ECLIPSE MONDAY
All of North America will be treated to an eclipse of the sun this coming Monday. In certain areas of the United States, the moon will completely cover the sun, a total solar eclipse. The rest of the country still will see a partial solar eclipse in which the moon will cover part of the sun’s disk.
The first point of contact in the U.S. will be at Lincoln Beach, Ore., at 9:05 Pacific Time. The last year in which a total eclipse of the sun was seen in the contiguous U.S. was 1979, the same year in which Spectacular Bid won the Kentucky Derby.
Kentucky Downs will welcome followers of what is being called the Great American Total Solar Eclipse to come and see it while raising money for a good cause, Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement.
Inasmuch as Kentucky Downs is in the eclipse’s path of totality, Kentucky Downs will offer visitors a prime parking and viewing option. The parking lot will open at 7:30 a.m. Central Time, with the eclipse scheduled to begin at approximately 11:58 a.m. and totality reached at approximately 1:28 p.m. The charge for parking will be a $10 donation per car, with all proceeds benefitting Old Friends, the non-profit organization that cares for over 175 retired racehorses.
Looking ahead, after Monday’s Great American Total Solar Eclipse, the next solar eclipse that will be visible in the contiguous U.S. will take place on April 8, 2024. (I wonder, will we, or won’t we, have seen a 13th Triple Crown winner by that time?)
Thoroughbred racing annually honors its American champions with the Eclipse Awards, the sport’s standard of excellence and answer to the Academy Awards for film, Emmy Awards for television, Tony Awards for the theater and Grammy Awards for music.
“Eclipse Awards are bestowed upon the Thoroughbred horses and individuals whose outstanding achievements have earned them the title of champion in their respective divisions,” it stated near the bottom of the press release last January announcing America’s 2016 champions. “The Eclipse Awards are named after the great 18th Century racehorse and foundation sire Eclipse, who began racing at age 5 and was undefeated in 18 starts, including eight walkovers. Eclipse sired the winners of 344 races, including three Epsom Derbies.”
After the Eclipse Awards were born in 1971, Kent Hollingsworth wrote the following in the Jan. 3, 1972, edition of the BloodHorse magazine:
“Eclipse was a giant among horses,” Hollingsworth began. “Two centuries ago in England, a blood-horse that stood 15 hands was considered good-sized for a racer. Eclipse measure 16.2 hands.
“Unbeaten, unextended really, in his 18 appearances on the Turf, Eclipse was named not as one might suppose, because he was head and withers above everything else around, but because he was foaled on April 1, 1764, a day when an eclipse of the sun was duly observed and recorded as ‘the great eclipse.’
“Bred by the Duke of Cumberland, a founder of the English Jockey Club, Eclipse was a chestnut with a prominent blaze and one white stocking on his off hind leg. ‘Off,’ meaning right, and ‘near,’ meaning left, are terms which frequently come into play when a hardboot is showing a yearling; they are of constant and certain designation, however, only so long as everyone is viewing a horse’s left side.
“George Stubbs, R. A., exercising full powers granted by artistic license, chose to paint the right side of Eclipse, which places the white stocking on the off hind leg very near. This irritates hardboots, but Stubbs’ portrait ‘Eclipse, With Mr. Wildman and Sons’ -- in the Woodward Collection at the Baltimore Museum of Art -- nonetheless remains the most famous piece of sporting art in America today.”
Hollingsworth went on to note that after Eclipse’s racing career concluded, he became a tremendously influential sire.
“Retired with 10 wins and eight walkovers in 18 career starts, Eclipse became an immediate and sustained success as a stallion,” Hollingsworth continued. “He sired three [Epsom] Derby winners -- Young Eclipse, Saltram and Sergeant--and [Epsom] Oaks winner Annette, along with top-class Don Quixote, Hermes, Harmonia, Favelin, King Fergus, Madcup, Pot-8-O’s, Soldier, and Zodiac…Through two of his sons, Pot-8-O’s and King Fergus, more than 90% of today’s Thoroughbreds descend in tail-male line from Eclipse.”
I will forever treasure seeing the actual skeleton of Eclipse in 1984. At that time, it was on display in England at the National Horseracing Museum at Newmarket. According to Wikipedia, Eclipse’s skeleton now is housed at England’s Royal Veterinary College in Hertfordshire.