by Jon White
August 24, 2017
Bob Baffert collected his fifth Pacific Classic victory when Collected led past every pole in the 1 1/4-mile event. Not only that, the Hall of Fame trainer finished one-two in the Grade I, $1 million event. The $1 Baffert exacta, combining Collected and Arrogate, paid $9.60.
I wrote last week that a number of tantalizing questions would be answered in this year’s Pacific Classic. In particular, these are how the four questions that I posed regarding Arrogate were answered:
--Will Arrogate regain his top form and crush his foes, just as he did in the Travers, Pegasus World Cup and Dubai World Cup? Answer: No.
--Is Arrogate going to get the victory, but have to battle for it? Answer: No.
--Will Arrogate get beat again, but at least run decently in defeat this time? Answer: Yes.
--Is Arrogate going to struggle and lose by a big margin, as he did in the July 22 San Diego Handicap? Answer: No.
The way I see it, the Arrogate who ran in the Pacific Classic still was not the same Arrogate who won the 2016 Travers Stakes (breaking Saratoga’s track record for 1 1/4 miles), 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic, 2017 Pegasus World Cup (breaking Gulfstream Park’s track record for 1 1/8 miles) and 2017 Dubai World Cup (despite a dreadful start).
But at least the Arrogate who ran in the Pacific Classic was a whole lot better than the Arrogate who lost by 15 1/4 lengths when he finished fourth as a 1-20 favorite in Del Mar’s Grade II San Diego Handicap on July 22.
In this year’s Pacific Classic, with Collected beating Arrogate, it was Baffert beating Baffert. But even though the trainer had just won a $1 million race, he looked like he had just found out he was going to have to pay a visit to the dentist.
That reminded me of Lucien Laurin’s reaction to the outcome of the 1973 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. Two weeks before the Kentucky Derby, Secretariat finished third behind Angle Light and Sham in the Wood. Laurin trained Secretariat. When Secretariat finished third, observers noticed that Laurin was furious. Laurin was fuming…even though he had just won the race with Angle Light.
While there are those knocking Arrogate for now having lost two straight, another way to look at it is to consider what would have happened if Baffert had not elected to run Collected in the Pacific Classic. Early in the Del Mar meet, Baffert had planned to run Collected in a grass race. But when Collected began training like a beast on Del Mar’s main track, Baffert changed his mind and decided to run him on the dirt in the Pacific Classic.
If Baffert had stuck to his original plan, there would have been no Collected in the Pacific Classic. With no Collected, Arrogate probably would have won the Pacific Classic by about four lengths. And if Arrogate had won by four lengths or so, his reputation would be in much better shape. Unfortunately for Arrogate, Collected did run in the Pacific Classic.
When Arrogate got beat in the San Diego, he never really even got involved early. Consequently, after Arrogate brushed the side of the gate at the beginning of the Pacific Classic, Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith hustled him right away. The goal was to get the Arrogate “into the game early” this time, a strategy that worked.
Whereas Arrogate was 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 lengths off the early pace in the San Diego, he raced just a length or so off the lead through the first half-mile of the Pacific Classic while third behind Collected and Accelerate. The preliminary fractions in the Pacific Classic were a moderate :23.76 and :47.19.
After the first half-mile, Arrogate found himself three to 3 1/2 lengths behind pacesetter Collected despite Smith riding Arrogate aggressively. As the field rounded the far turn, Collected had a short lead, with Accelerate breathing down his neck. It now had become evident this was not going to be a race in which Arrogate dazzled. Indeed, it appeared Arrogate was in deep water and the 3-5 favorite probably was not going to win, as noted by track announcer Trevor Denman during his call of the race.
“Arrogate’s having to be ridden again today,” Denman said. “He’s doing better than last time, but he’s still not comfortable.”
Turning into the stretch, while much attention understandably was focused on what Arrogate was or was not doing, Collected shook away from Accelerate to open a clear advantage. Collected passed the eighth pole leading by 2 1/2-length advantage.
What nearly saved the day for Arrogate, I think, was the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Pacific Classic. It appeared to me the 1 1/4-mile distance nearly got Collected beat. Collected had just enough gas left in the tank to win by a half-length.
The Pacific Classic’s 1 1/4 miles was the farthest Collected had ever raced, while
Arrogate already was proven at the distance. Arrogate went into the Pacific Classic three for three when competing in races at 1 1/4 miles (Travers, BC Classic) or about 1 1/4 miles (Dubai World Cup).
COLLECTED POSTS HIGHEST BEYER YET
Even though Collected seemed to be weary toward the end of the Pacific Classic, his final time was a very good 2:00.70. He was assigned a career-best 115 Beyer Speed Figure. This was the best Beyer by a Pacific Classic winner on dirt since Candy Ride posted a 123 in the 2003 renewal.
Collected has won all four of his starts this year. Prior to the Pacific Classic, he won three in a row at Santa Anita Park -- the Santana Mile on April 1 (101 Beyer Speed Figure), Californian on April 22 (104 Beyer) and Grade III Precisionist (111 Beyer).
These are the Beyer Speed Figures for the winners of the Pacific Classic going back to the first running in 1991:
2017 Collected (115)
2016 California Chrome (113)
2015 Beholder (114)
2014 Shared Belief (115) synthetic footing
2013 Game On Dude (113) synthetic footing
2012 Dullahan (111) synthetic footing
2011 Acclamation (105) synthetic footing
2010 Richard’s Kid (96) synthetic footing
2009 Richard’s Kid (107) synthetic footing
2008 Go Between (104) synthetic footing
2007 Student Council (99) synthetic footing
2006 Lava Man (109)
2005 Borrego (113)
2004 Pleasantly Perfect (112)
2003 Candy Ride (123)
2002 Came Home (116)
2001 Skimming (119)
2000 Skimming (118)
1999 General Challenge (119)
1998 Free House (117)
1997 Gentlemen (121)
1996 Dare and Go (116)
1995 Tinners Way (112)
1994 Tinners Way (111)
1993 Bertrando (117)
1992 Missionary Ridge (110)
1991 Best Pal (118)
Earlier this year, while Arrogate was on his way to winning the Group I, $10 million Dubai World Cup after a dreadful start, track announcer Terry Spargo proclaimed him “the Man o’ War of the 21st century.” Baffert said after that race that Arrogate was the best horse seen since Secretariat. And what has occurred after such lofty praise? Arrogate has lost both times he has raced.
While many are knocking Arrogate for his second straight loss, it should be noted that his 114 Beyer Speed Figure for the Pacific Classic is better than or equal to the Beyer for the winner of the last five editions of the race when contested on dirt -- California Chrome (113 in 2016), Beholder (114 in 2015), Lava Man (109 in 2006), Borrego (113 in 2005),
It’s just that so darn much is expected from Arrogate these days after he set the bar high Beyer-wise in light of his 122 in last year’s Travers Stakes, 120 in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic and 119 in this year’s Pegasus World Cup.
Though Arrogate did not win the Pacific Classic, he did manage to beat Accelerate for the first time. Accelerate weakened in the stretch and finished third, 4 1/2 lengths behind Arrogate. It was the first time Accelerate had raced farther than 1 1/8 miles. He now will be pointed to the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Mile rather than 1 1/4-mile BC Classic, according to his trainer, John Sadler.
In Accelerate’s career debut, he ran second to Westbrook at Los Alamitos on April 17, 2016. Arrogate finished third. When Accelerate won Del Mar’s Grade II San Diego Handicap by 8 1/2 lengths on July 22, Arrogate came in fourth.
Arrogate earned $200,000 for finishing second in the Pacific Classic, boosting his career bankroll to a North American record $17,302,600. California Chrome ranks second on that list with lifetime earnings of $14,752,650. Arrogate is the third-wealthiest Thoroughbred of all time, behind only Orfevre and Gentildonna. These are the five richest:
1. $19,005,276 Orfevre
2. $18,468,392 Gentildonna
3. $17,302,600 Arrogate
3. $17,018,548 Buena Vista
4. $16,200,337 T.M. Opera O
WINX & ENABLE: SUPER DISTAFFERS
Going into the Pacific Classic, despite Arrogate’s defeat in the San Diego, he was No. 1 on the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings for 2017 as of Aug. 6. Australian superstar Winx was No. 2, Gun Runner was No. 3, Enable was No. 4 and Ribchester was No. 5.
While Arrogate got beat in last Saturday’s Pacific Classic, Winx made a sensational 2017 debut the same day by overcoming a horrible start to win the Group II Bob Ingham Warwick Stakes at about seven furlongs at Royal Randwick.
“Winx surged down the stretch and outran the field to finish,” the Bloodhorse reported. “The mare’s final 600 meters was clocked at :31.98, the fastest seen at Randwick. She crossed the wire first in a final time of 1:21.87. It was a show of determination, sustained speed, and will to win of a champion.”
It was Winx’s 18th consecutive victory. The 6-year-old Australian-bred Street Cry mare now has won 22 of 28 lifetime starts. Street Cry, of course, also is the sire of American fan favorite Zenyatta, who won 19 of 20 career starts. Zenyatta reeled off 19 straight wins before losing the Grade I BC Classic by a head to Blame in 2010 at Churchill Downs.
I think the best racehorse in the world right now might well be Enable, a 3-year-old filly who trounced a stellar group of males when a 4 1/2-length winner in the Group I King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in England on July 29. John Gosden has said Enable is the best horse he’s ever trained. That is saying a lot. Keep in mind Gosden has won important events with the likes of Royal Heroine (BC Mile), Raven’s Pass (BC Classic), Benny the Dip (Epsom Derby), Golden Horn (Epsom Derby, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe), Dar Re Mi (Dubai Sheema Classic) and Bates Motel (Santa Anita Handicap).
Enable is scheduled to race in England on Thursday in the Group I Yorkshire Oaks. She currently is the future book favorite for France’s prestigious Group I Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly on Oct. 1.
NTRA TOP THOROUGHBRED POLL HAS NEW NO. 1
I wrote last week that if Arrogate did not win the Pacific Classic, Gun Runner then might well displace him in the top spot in the next NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll. Following the result of the Pacific Classic, that is what has happened. Arrogate had been No. 1 for 29 consecutive weeks.
Here is this week’s poll, (first-place votes in parenthesis):
1. Gun Runner (27)
2. Arrogate (10)
3. Songbird (4)
5. Stellar Wind
6. Mor Spirit
7. Lady Eli
8. Mind Your Biscuits
9. Abel Tasman
10. Lady Aurelia
Collected has moved into the Top 10 this week after being No. 12 last week. Baffert trains four of the Top 10 -- Arrogate, Collected, Mor Spirit and Abel Tasman.
On July 12, Collected was 20-1 in the odds at the Wynn Race Book in Las Vegas for the BC Classic at Del Mar on Nov. 4. Arrogate was the even-money favorite, with Gun Runner next at 7-1.
Gun Runner now is the 3-2 favorite at the Wynn. Arrogate is 11-5 (slightly higher than 2-1). Collected’s BC Classic price has plummeted to 3-1.
This Saturday’s Grade I, $1.25 million Travers has attracted a terrific field of 12. For the first time since 1982, the Travers will bring together three different winners of the Triple Crown races -- Always Dreaming (Kentucky Derby), Cloud Computing (Preakness Stakes) and Tapwrit (Belmont Stakes).
In 1982, Kentucky Derby winner Gato Del Sol, Preakness winner Aloma’s Ruler and Belmont winner Conquistador Cielo clashed in the Travers.
Conquistador Cielo was sent away as the 2-5 favorite in a field of five. Gato Del Sol was the 4-1 second choice, with Aloma’s Ruler 5-1. Runaway Groom went off at 12-1, while Lejoli was the longest shot at 14-1.
Runaway Groom, with Jeffery Fell riding, rallied from last to prevail by a half-length in 2:02 2/5 and paid $27.80 to win. Aloma’s Ruler finished second, followed in order by Conquistador Cielo, Lejoli and Gato Del Sol.
In Runaway Groom’s most recent start prior to the Travers, he won the Prince of Wales at 1 1/2 miles on turf at Fort Erie. Earlier in the year, he finished second to Son of Briartic in the prestigious Queen’s Plate at Woodbine.
Despite Conquistador Cielo’s defeat in the Travers, he was voted 1982 Horse of the Year, mainly due to his victories in the Grade I Met Mile against older horses on May 31 and Grade I Belmont Stakes just five days later.
Here is how I am picking the Travers:
PP Horse (Morning Line) Comment
3 West Coast (4-1) Should relish 1 1/4 miles
5 Good Samaritan (5-1) First dirt start a dandy
1 Cloud Computing (8-1) Attempts to rebound
6 Girvin (10-1) Rallied to win Haskell by nose
10 Irap (8-1) All 3 career wins in graded stakes
9 McCraken (12-1) The 12f trip is a concern
7 Always Dreaming (6-1) Won roses in spring
4 Tapwrit (7-2) Off since Belmont Stakes win
11 Gunnevera (20-1) Fired vs. softer in Florida
2 Giuseppe the Great (20-1) 2nd in Jim Dandy
8 Lookin At Lee (30-1) Good check-earner
12 Fayeq (30-1) Kin to Rachel Alexandra