Arrogate bests ‘Chrome’ in Classic to emerge as new star
ARCADIA: Arrogate surged past California Chrome in the closing yards Saturday to win the $6 million Classic and stamp himself US flat racing’s new superstar.
The late-blooming gray three-year-old was running against older horses for the first time in the marquee event of the 13race, $28 million Breeders’ Cup program.
He gave trainer Bob Baffert a third straight victory in the Classic and a 14th Breeders’ Cup win.
Mike Smith nabbed his 25th Breeders’ Cup win-stretching his lead among all jockeys. But it took everything Arrogate had to get past the experienced California Chrome, who won hearts with Kentucky Derby and Preakness victories in 2014 before he fell short of a Triple Crown with a fourth place in the Belmont Stakes. The flashy chestnut has been resurgent in his five-year-old season, winning all six of his starts prior to the Classic.
With Victor Espinoza in the irons, he was in prime position at the top of the stretch and appeared to have repulsed Arrogate’s charge until the final strides.
“Deep down, I wasn’t really sure if we could beat California Chrome because I still have total respect for the horse,” Baffert said. “Down the backside it looked like California Chrome was getting everything going. I thought maybe (Arrogate’s) not running. “Turning for home, I thought well, I’m going to run second-but the eighth pole, all of a sudden he started getting into that gear .... ”With California Chrome’s racing career now winding down, Arrogate showed his stunning 13 1/4-length victory in the Travers in August was no fluke. “That was incredible,” Smith said. “I’m at a loss for words. He’s such a young horse. He’s so talented. He has got amazing stamina. He doesn’t quit. He could have gone around again. He’s incredible.”
California Chrome took second, a whopping 10 3/4 lengths ahead of third-placed Keen Ice. “It was great,” Espinoza said of Chrome’s gallant effort. “He’s an awesome horse. I was all by myself in the front and thought I could save something for the very end. Thinking back, I should have just let him run early, but he ran great.”
Earlier Saturday, Baffert won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint with Drefong-ridden by Martin Garcia after Smith opted off the horse in favor of the more experienced Masochistic, who finished second.
Smith also came up on the losing end of a Distaff thriller on Friday-when six-year-old Beholder silenced brilliant three-year-old filly Songbird with a win at the wire.
“It’s always going to hurt,” Smith said. You hate to get beat, especially the matter of maybe an inch (but) this was incredible today. This horse ran a race today that you just don’t see things like this from a threeyear-old that has only run five times.”
There was plenty of glory for Smith over the two days of Breeders’ Cup action-starting with his win in the Dirt Mile on Tamarkuz on Friday and including a win aboard Finest City in the Filly & Mare Sprint.
HIGHLAND REEL DOMINATES
It was a tough two days for European raiders but their two victories included an impressive triumph for Highland Reel in the $4 million Turf. Leaping out of the gate with Seamus Heffernan aboard, the Aidan O’Brien-trained horse swept to a wire-to-wire victory in the 1 1/2-mile race. Flintshire was second while O’Brien’s Found-who led stablemate Highland Reel across the line in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe-was third in her Turf title defense.