Funny how we haven’t heard much Horse of the Year talk through the first half of 2017. Why is that, you ask? Simple. He spells his name A-R-R-O-G-A-T-E.
The 4-year-old Unbridled’s Song colt deserves to have his name in all caps, too. Right now, the King is residing comfortably in trainer Bob Baffert’s barn at Santa Anita, basking in the glow of a string of victories unmatched in the history of the sport.
Here it is, a resume for the ages:
• Arrogate began his remarkable streak with a 13 1/2-length victory in the $1.25 million Travers Stakes on Aug. 27 at Saratoga, running the mile and a quarter in a track-record 1:59.36. Little did we know this was just the start of something very special. He just ran away from his opposition.
• He proved his Travers form was no fluke, rallying to beat the people’s horse, California Chrome, in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 5. Chrome would go on to win his second Horse of the Year hardware. Arrogate would go on to wow us 12 weeks later.
• Next came the Rematch: California Chrome-Arrogate II in the inaugural $12 million Pegasus World Cup on Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park. But the much-anticipated matchup never materialized as a less-than-peak Chrome was eased by jockey Victor Espinoza in the stretch and finished ninth while Arrogate won by 4 3/4 lengths.
• He saved the piece de resistance for last, overcoming a brutal start to win the $10 million Dubai World Cup in overpowering fashion on March 25. Baffert was in disbelief afterward, and jockey Mike Smith exulted, “I’ve never ridden a horse like this.” Remember, this is a rider who’s been aboard Zenyatta, Shared Belief and Songbird, just to name a few.
So we ask the question: Is there anyone who can beat Arrogate and make this a Horse of the Year race and not a Horse of the Year runaway?
Gun Runner, ranked second in the latest National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s thoroughbred poll?
Hey, he’s a nice colt. Just won the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs by a record seven lengths. But he’s had two tries at Arrogate, in the Travers and at Dubai, and been soundly beaten both times. Even his trainer, Steve Asmussen, knows what he’s up against.
“We ran into a freak today,” Asmussen said after the Travers.
Songbird, third ranked in the NTRA poll?
Well, let owner Rick Porter tell you all you need to know.
“I don’t think I want too much of Arrogate at this point,” he told me in…