California Chrome, Arrogate Bookend Full Pegasus World Cup Field
By Casey Laughter
Saturday’s inaugural $12 million Pegasus World Cup has been billed as the end of an era as two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome will square off against fellow champion Arrogate in a rematch of last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) be heading to stud duty Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky. In addition to the top two, the nine-furlong feature will have other familiar faces, but it is without a doubt a contest all about the top two. So, who has the advantage here?
California Chrome has run at nine furlongs five times, with one loss and once on the turf. He seemingly has found a home going the nine to 10 furlongs on the dirt but is a multiple winner in races going even farther. And California Chrome is fast, we all know this. However, there have been plenty of times when California Chrome has not been on the lead. Going all the way back to the 2014 Kentucky Derby (GI), California Chrome sat third on the outside of Uncle Sigh and Chitu most of the way, before taking command at the one mile mark and drawing away to win. Fast-forward to 2016, California Chrome sat on the flank of Alfa Bird in the San Pasqual Stakes (GII) before making a similar move, and in Dubai the Art Sherman trainee sat just off the pace before repeating the somewhat signature move.
In his last four starts, though, California Chrome has gone to the lead and not looked back, and begrudgingly gave up the lead in deep stretch to finish second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. So the main question in the Pegasus is, will California Chrome go to the lead or let another speedster, such as Noble Bird, go to the lead?
What makes California Chrome most vulnerable? Though his far outside post position isn’t ideal considering his running style, he’s been successful in bounding out of the starting gate in every race recently and his stride is long enough to carry him clear rather quickly, assets he’ll need with the run into the first turn. Perhaps his the only vulnerability is that he’s found a nearly equal match from his chief rival in both talent and ability.
When it comes to Arrogate’s chances in the Pegasus World Cup, the picture is equally cloudy. Arrogate has only raced six times, but five of those were winning efforts. The gray son of Unbridled’s Song is bred for distance and showed it when he needed every inch of 8 ½ furlongs to break his maiden in wire-to-wire fashion. With two more subsequent allowance wins under his belt Arrogate went to the Travers Stakes (GI) at Saratoga and in a performance nothing short of brilliant. That day, Arrogate went to the lead with stablemate American Freedom hot on his flank, led every step of the way and set a new track record by running the fastest Travers Stakes ever in 1:59 2/5 and won 13 ½ lengths.
Arrogate then captured the Breeders’ Cup Classic in thrilling fashion after sitting off the pace, letting California Chrome lope along on the lead but never being completely out of reach, and then running him down in deep stretch to win.
What makes Arrogate most vulnerable? He’s lightly raced compared to his well-traveled chief rival, and he’s been battling weather issues in California, which included a missed start in the San Pasqual Stakes (GII) and some postponed works, making his fitness level probably his biggest question mark. His post position, considering his running style, is also a big negative, but no rider is better at saving ground than Mike Smith, so if a good trip comes from the inside it will be under Arrogate’s Hall of Fame jockey.
The biggest question overall, though, surrounding the expected rematch is, what type of running style will each horse use? Who is going to get the first jump into the stretch? Who is more fit and well prepared?
California Chrome seems to have an ever-so-slight upper hand here, with the shorter nine furlongs and having had some gallops and a very nice workout over the Gulfstream Park main track. The South Florida oval also is a speed-favoring track, normally. His connections believe he’s in the best form of his life,and have high hopes for a win
Who is your pick for the Pegasus World Cup?