Arrogate not quite Secretariat but definitely top 10 all time

If you missed Arrogate's amazing victory in the $10 million Dubai World Cup on Saturday, you missed one of the best performances by a racehorse in many years.

Off last after being bothered at the start, Arrogate eventually passed all 13 rivals with a strong and steady outside rally that saw him make up about 20 lengths before beating second place finisher Gun Runner by nearly three full lengths.

Arrogate's victory in this race - contested at approximately 1-1/4 miles - earned the son of Unbridled's Song $6 million. That pushed him above $17 million in career earnings to pass California Chrome and become the all-time leader for moneys won. This, in only the eighth start of Arrogate's exciting career.

In the Meydan grandstand, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert was as astonished as most of us who saw the race on TVG and/or the NBC Sports Network. With a camera trained on him during the race, Baffert conceded defeat about three seconds after Arrogate was pinched back to last.

Later, after Arrogate pulled off his extraordinary victory, Baffert said, with the emotion of a man who has seen it all, but acting as if he was going to the winners' circle for the first time, "When he missed the break, I gave him no chance at all.

"Right then and there, I got mad at myself for bringing him all the way here. But, when I watched him rally and actually win it," said the man who trained American Pharoah to a sweep of the 2015 Triple Crown, "I couldn't help myself think that's the greatest horse I've ever seen run. In all honesty, I really can't believe that he won. That is a truly great horse."

Baffert concluded: "When they turned for home, I told myself, if he wins, (Arrogate) is the best horse we've seen since Secretariat!"

Was he really that good?

From my perspective, which includes witnessing most of Secretariat's races in 1972 and '73, including his spectacular Triple Crown victories, I believe Arrogate is not quite up to Secretariat's level; but, he certainly is one of the top 10 horses I have ever seen.

To me, Secretariat is the Babe Ruth of horseracing. But, I also have high regards for 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed; five-time Horse of the Year Kelso; the great 1975 filly, Ruffian and 1979 Handicap Champion Spectacular Bid. Likewise, I believe three-time Horse of the Year Forego; '77 T-Crown winner Seattle Slew and two-time Horse of the Year Cigar belong on my top 10 list, along with 2004-miler Ghostzapper, who ran exceptionally fast several times on the Beyer Speed Figure scale.

Although my longtime friend Andy Beyer does not officially do Speed Figures for races in foreign countries, he and his valued associate Randy Moss made a set of unofficial Figs for Saturday's dirt racing in Dubai. I am grateful to Andy for sharing that Arrogate scored a respectable 115 Beyer Fig. in the World Cup.

As I told Andy, I estimated a near identical Fig. for the World Cup similarly calculated in reference to second place finisher Gun Runner. Yet, I strongly believe this was one race where the true quality of the performance could not be measured by the final clocking of 2:02.33, or by any speed figure.

Keep in mind, the early fractional splits were moderate, which gave the leaders - and horses within a few lengths of the lead - an advantage against Arrogate's deep closing rally. Remember also, despite racing very wide, Arrogate made up so many lengths to the mile marker while many of the contending horses in front of him were picking up their own rates of speed. Such sustained acceleration is extremely rare, especially when it continues all the way to the finish.

Arrogate, of course, owes Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith a big thank you - given how he patiently re-gathered the colt after the horrible start. Moreover, Arrogate was brushed in the upper stretch, yet under Smith's steady guidance, the colt resolutely lengthened his remarkable stride during the final 200 yards.

Crossing the wire, Arrogate looked so much the best, I had to remind myself he was winning this race on an unfamiliar, slightly muddied track, 10,000 miles from home, while forced to produce a stretch running style so different from what he had shown at any time in his six prior victories.

Bottom line, this was a truly remarkably great performance, sure to be remembered for a long, long time.

Added Notes: Fast and Accurate, longshot winner of the $500,000 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park on Saturday did not impress. But Hence, winner of Sunday's $800,000 Sunland Derby, acted as if he belongs in the Kentucky Derby… This Saturday, several promising Derby contenders will be seen in a pair of $1 million preps - the Louisiana Derby and Florida Derby. Stay tuned.

By Steve Davidowitz - Gaming Today


Kentucky Derby field should feature a lot of speed

When the points system started a few years ago, it eliminated fake speed types from the Derby. No longer did we see future sprinters taking place in the Derby field. This meant the Derby pace had slowed somewhat and favored those stalking the pace. You have to go back to 2005 as the last time the pace collapsed on a dry track setting it up for a deep closer. That year, Giacomo went from 18th to 1st at 50-1 to win in a major upset.

The 2017 Kentucky Derby is starting to look like a speed-laden field. Many of the top performers on the Derby trail have been front speed types. This could generate the kind of pace the deep closers really need. With that scenario in mind, here are my top ten for the Derby with just six prep races remaining.

Gunnevara: Deep closer has won 4 of his past 6 races and is 3 for 4 with Castellano aboard. He’ll be one of the main players in the Florida Derby. His trainer is the all-time winningest trainer in Venezuela. If he runs well Saturday, he’s a strong selection for the Kentucky Derby.

One Liner: Todd Pletcher colt took the strong running of the G3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park. That race is going to come back strong. Seventh place finisher Hence upset the G3 Sunland Park Derby at 11-1 on Sunday. He is likely to run next in the Wood, April 8.

McCraken: Undefeated 4 for 4 for trainer Ian Wilkes. He’s got a huge late kick and despite winning by only 9 combined lengths, he’s been much the best each time. He missed the Tampa Bay Derby with an ankle strain. He’s scheduled to run in the Blue Grass, April 8.

Practical Joke: Chad Brown colt won two Grade 1 races as a two-year-old and then ran a solid 3rd in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Runner-up to Gunnevera in the Fountain of Youth in a big effort off the layoff. He’ll get a rematch with that one in the Florida Derby on Saturday.

J Boys Echo: Winner of the G3 Gotham stakes in classy style at 6-1 earlier this month. Trainer Dale Romans is going to win a Derby. This Mineshaft colt cost $480,000 and should love any added distance. He’ll run in the Blue Grass, April 8, in his final Derby prep.

Tapwrit: Another Todd Pletcher runner and this one cost $1,200,000. He crushed in the Tampa Bay Derby after running a game 2nd to McCraken in the Sam F. Davis. His dam won the G-1 Spinaway at Saratoga. He’s 3 for 4 routing, his only loss to McCraken. Next start undecided.

Battalion Runner: Pletcher colt is 2 for 3. He has the fourth highest Beyer (98) of any of the main contenders. He got that going 7 furlongs at Gulfstream. Dam is full to Tapizar. Deeper in the female tree is an Arkansas Derby winner, Olympio. He’ll go in the Florida Derby on Saturday.

Girvin: Joe Sharp runner took the G-2 Risen Star at Fairgrounds at odds of 8-1. That made him 2 for 3 with a very close 2nd in his other start (which came on the turf). This colt sold for 18x his sire fee. He’ll go in the Louisiana Derby, April 1.

Classic Empire: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner really suffered his first defeat in the G2 Holy Bull, when third behind Irish War Cry and Gunnevera (he did lose when he wheeled and lost his jockey in the G-1 Hopeful). Eligible to improve, 2nd off the shelf in the Blue Grass, April 8.

Petrov: Ran 2nd to One Liner in the G-3 Southwest and was 8 clear of third in a huge effort. Regressed a bit in the Rebel but was only two back in the end. Has the kind of stalking style that has been successful in the Kentucky Derby. It’s undecided where he’ll run next.

By Dave Valento – Gaming Today


Today’s Hot Plays