It looked like a disaster at the start of Saturday’s $10 million Dubai World Cup as Juddmonte Farm’s Arrogate was totally unprepared for the break, leaving the gates awkwardly and then bumped hard on both sides to find himself dead last in the 14-horse field. But veteran reinsman Mike Smith never panicked aboard the champion 4-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song, keeping him wide and getting a clear trip all the way around the field to finish 2 1/4 lengths in front of Gun Runner at the wire, with Neolithic completing an American trifecta at the top of the world’s second-richest race. Trainer Bob Baffert was emotional after the race, his third victory in the Dubai World Cup, and couldn’t believe Arrogate’s performance over the muddy (sealed) Meydan oval, over which he completed 2000m (about 10 furlongs) in 2:02.15.
“When he missed the break, I gave him no chance at all. I was mad at myself for bringing him,” Baffert said. “That’s the greatest horse I’ve ever seen run. I can’t believe he won. That is a great horse right there.”
“‘When they turned for home, I told myself ‘If he wins, this is the best horse we’ve seen since Secretariat.’”
In the United States, Arrogate is used to having an assistant starter in the gate with him.
“I don’t know if the (assistant starter) misunderstood me, but I said make sure you keep his head straight. And then he got out instead,” Smith said. “My horse just didn’t realize he had to break. But you know what? Things happen for a reason.”
When asked to break on his own for the first time in the Dubai World Cup, Arrogate appeared to squat down, briefly startled, then lunging awkwardly forward. Keen Ice on his outside and Furia Cruzada on his inside both broke toward the big gray colt, and effectively squeezed him back after a series of firm bumps. Suddenly, Mike Smith and Arrogate found themselves in a position they’d never been in, behind a total of 13 top-class horses with about a mile left to run.
“I immediately thought of Zenyatta,” said Mike Smith, referring to the late-running champion mare he rode throughout her star-studded career. “I’m just going to ride him like I used to Zenyatta… This horse can do anything.”
Gun Runner, meanwhile, had broken the best of the field, but Florent Geroux allowed local trainee Long River to take the lead heading into the first turn. Neolithic joined the first flight traveling three-wide, and Mubtaahij was not far behind in fourth despite breaking from the widest of all 14 post positions. Gun Runner settled down into second, about three paths off the rail with plenty of clear running room just behind the front-running winner of the Third Round of the Al Maktoum Challenge, Long River.
Smith’s decision to ride Arrogate “like Zenyatta” meant that he stayed totally relaxed aboard the Breeders’ Cup and Pegasus World Cup winner, angling him well to the outside of the rest of the field as he straightened into the backstretch. Arrogate was at least eight paths off the rail as Smith tried to keep him out of the worst of the kickback, and still nearly 10 lengths away from the leaders.
“He was slipping and sliding from the word go,” Smith added in describing the race. “Once I got to the outside and he straightened out, he leveled out and I made up five lengths so quick. I thought OK, we’re here. I just tried to be patient and not lose ground. It worked out great. He’s the greatest I’ve ever been on.”
Entering the far turn, Gun Runner easily overtook Long River for the lead, and Neolithic was game to carry on right alongside. Mubtaahij kept on in third, but Arrogate was eating up ground with every stride. Smith wove a path on the inside of a pair of runners, giving Arrogate a clear path only four-wide approaching the head of the lane, though he was still six or seven lengths from the front.
Rounding out the order of finish were Awardee, Hoppertunity, Keen Ice, Lani, Apollo Kentucky, Move Up, Long River, Furia Cruzada, and Golden Dream.
“I’m just so blessed, God has blessed me so much, to give me a horse like this towards the end of my career is just, I’m lost for words, I’m am going to break down and cry,” Smith continued. “He is the best I have ever been on, he truly is. He is the world’s horse now.”
Bred in Kentucky by Clearsky Farm, Arrogate is out of Bubbler (Distorted Humor). Baffert had just begun his association with Juddmonte and was given permission to select several yearlings. He came across the Arrogate at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, and had to go to $560,000 to procure the colt. Arrogate was difficult to train at first, refusing to settle down, and was even sent back to the farm to mature. Returned to Baffert, the colt’s behavior led to a sub-par third-place effort on debut in April 2016. Finally, Baffert and top-notch assistant Dana Barnes were able to convince Arrogate to relax, and he showed glimpses of his talent with a maiden and allowance win in Southern California.
Suddenly, Baffert shipped the colt east to compete in the Travers Stakes against some of the best of his generation. Arrogate led gate-to-wire and set a track record at Saratoga, geared down at the wire by a giddy Mike Smith. In his next start he bested Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup winner California Chrome in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and followed that performance with a dominating victory in the inaugural $12 million Pegasus World Cup.
Adding the money earned from his Dubai World Cup victory, Arrogate now boasts career earnings higher than California Chrome’s, a total of over $17 million. The only horse with higher career earnings in the history of horse racing is Orfevre, a Japanese runner who earned more than $19 million. As Arrogate heads home for a respite from racing, his connections appear to be targeting another run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2017, and perhaps even the 2018 Pegasus World Cup, either of which would surely push Arrogate’s earnings over Orfevre’s mark.
“I can’t believe we won,” said the still-shocked Baffert in the post-race press conference. “That is a great horse right there. It was terrible, terrible, he walked out of the gate. I tell you what, Mike Smith did a great job. He didn’t panic, he just thought, well I just get him around there. Mike Smith, what a job he did. Unbelievable. This is the greatest horse we have seen since Secretariat. Unbelievable.”