Arrogate Preps for Pegasus World Cup in Sunday’s San Pasqual
By Jordan Sigmon
Fresh off of a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI), likely 3-year-old champion and Horse of the Year candidate Arrogate will make his 2017 debut on New Year’s Day in the San Pasqual Stakes (GII) at Santa Anita. Winning will be no walk in the park with the presence of Midnight Storm, a grade 1 winner on the turf who switched to dirt last out and romped in the Native Diver Stakes (GIII). Arrogate will also have Mother Nature to tussle with as there is plenty of rain in the forecast throughout Saturday leaving a potentially wet surface at post time for the San Pasqual on Sunday.
Drawn outside in a field of five, Arrogate – who is owned by Juddmonte Farms and trained by Bob Baffert – will be making just his seventh start, having not even made it to the races until April of his sophomore season. He broke his maiden at second asking by 4 ½ lengths in June, and after two easy allowance wins, it was on to bigger and better things for the son of Unbridled’s Song. Not even his Hall of Fame trainer, however, could have predicted the tour de force Arrogate was to put on display in the Travers Stakes (GI) late last August. Dismissed at 11/1, Arrogate took the lead straight out of the gate and never looked back, destroying his competition by 13 ½ lengths, setting a track and stakes record in the process.
While his peers continued racing, Arrogate rested and trained up to a matchup for the ages that awaited him at the Breeders’ Cup. Having clearly established himself as the best 3-year-old in the country, he would now face his stiffest test to date, in California Chrome, the richest North American-based Thoroughbred of all time. As he had every time before, Arrogate passed this test, surging past the beloved chestnut to prevail by a half-length on the world’s stage.
Since the Classic in early November Arrogate has been waiting on the sidelines while his main rival for the January 28th Pegasus World Cup (GI), California Chrome, was bidding his California fans farewell with a 12-length walkover in the Winter Challenge Stakes at his home track Los Alamitos.
After a strong six-furlong breeze in 1:12 ⅕ on Tuesday, Bob Baffert gave the go-ahead to run his colt in the San Pasqual. As for the inclement weather, Baffert will be watching closely, but does not anticipate scratching his star colt unless the track comes up very sloppy or is sealed.
Arrogate or no Arrogate, A Venneri Racing Inc. and Little Red Feather Racing’s Midnight Storm has had his sights set on this race ever since his easy 7 ½ length score in the Native Diver at the end of November and trainer Phil D’Amato has little to no reservations about facing Arrogate.
“My horse could not be training any better and I’m looking forward to running against the best horse in the country,” D’Amato said.
Midnight Storm is a grade 1 winner, however that success came on the turf and he is unproven against top-class horses on the dirt. The son of Pioneerof the Nile will be reunited with Rafael Bejarano as Mike Smith, who was aboard for his Native Diver score, has taken the obvious route and stuck with Arrogate for this race.
Not to be forgotten in the shadows of the top two, there are three other graded stakes winners in the field. Hronis Racing LLC’s Accelerate took the Los Alamitos Derby (GII) in September before finishing a close third in the Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI) for trainer John Sadler. Affirmed Stakes (GIII) winner Dalmore, who runs under the ownership of Big Chief Racing, Head of Plains Partners, and Rocker O Ranch for trainer Keith Desormeaux has not won since that grade 3 win in July, but he is unbeaten at the 1 1/16-mile distance over Santa Anita’s main track. Rounding out the field is Pam and Martin Wygod’s Prospect Park, who has never won a stakes race on dirt but does possess a victory in the La Jolla Handicap (GIIIT) over Del Mar’s turf course for trainer Cliff Sise Jr. last August.
Run at 1 1/16 miles on the main track, the $200,000 San Pasqual has been carded as the 8th race on the program with an approximate post time of 4:00 pm PT.