November 6, 2016

Breeders’ Cup: Arrogate spoils perfect year for California Chrome

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Arrogate spoiled California Chrome's hopes for a perfect year of races after cruising to victory in the Breeders Cup by a half-length.

California Chrome was cruising along the track Saturday in search of victory, looking still as the 2014 American Horse of the Year as he was once regarded, another horse, Arrogate, was trailing closely behind. The youngest horse in the field, brilliant and just as much unexperienced.

In a thrilling finish to the Breeders’ Cup weekend, horse racing’s newest star was found.

Arrogate chased California Chrome through the stretch, soon leaving every other horse in the dust behind. Out of the dust settled a highly anticipated showdown. And it was on.

With Mike Smith atop the 3-year-old colt, he whipped the horse left-handed and then right, catching the former Kentucky Derby winner in the final 100 yards to win the $6 million Classic by a half-length Saturday at Santa Anita.

“When I did that, he gave me another jump,” Smith said after the victory. “That is what got us on by.”

With the victory, Arrogate was immediately thrust into the position as the heir apparent to California Chrome, who now at age 5, very likely only has one more race remaining in his storied career. In direct contrast, the future appears to be limitless for Arrogate, his potential remains untapped considering the horse never once competed as a 2-year-old and made just his sixth start in North America’s richest race.

Late-developing Arrogate was first discovered in August at Saratoga, winning the Travers by 13 1/2 lengths with the fastest time in the track’s 147-year history.

For California Chrome, the loss represented the first in seven races run this year. For Arrogate, it was his fifth straight victory.

“I was surprised I beat him,” storied trainer Bob Baffert said. “I didn’t think I could beat him going in.”

Arrogate ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:00.11 and paid $5.40, $2.80 and $2.60 as the 8-5 second choice.

For Smith, the victory equaled his third Cup victory of the weekend and 25th of his career, the most all time. Baffert won his record third consecutive Classic, this time in front of an announced crowd of 72,811, third-highest in the event’s 33-year history.

California Chrome set an unchallenged pace to begin the race, Melatonin sat in second while Arrogate was in a close third.

“I was cruising on the lead. He was doing it so easy, so comfortable,” jockey Victor Espinoza, who was mounted on California Chrome, said. “Maybe I should have opened it up a little bit early.”

Around the final turn, Arrogate cut to the inside of Melatonin and immediately shifted to the outside, taking a dead aim at California Chrome right in front of him.

“Once I switched over and dropped into the far turn, he really picked it up at that point,” Smith said. “Then he was relentless, this horse. He never stops. He’s got some stamina.”

However, into the upper stretch, California Chrome still held court. Arrogate used the aforementioned final 100 yards to make his final move, cruising to the victory.

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