No such thing as a sure thing in horse racing
On paper, there was no way Arrogate could lose Saturday in the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar Racetrack.
His accomplishments — more than $17 million in purse money earned, seven victories in eight career starts — so towered over his four rivals that no reasonable case could be made for anybody but Arrogate to win.
The betting public was so convinced that more than 91.9 percent of the $2,671,939 wagered in the win-place-show mutuel pools went on No. 3, Arrogate.
The 4-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song, the world’s top-ranked thoroughbred, was the surest of sure things, leaving the gate under jockey Mike Smith at odds of 1 to 20, meaning you had to bet $20 for a chance to win $1.
At Del Mar, where the surf meets the turf just north of San Diego, Arrogate was, in horse racing parlance, good enough to jog around the 1-mile oval and still win.
As it turns out, Arrogate really did jog around the Del Mar track, but he didn’t win.
He barely lifted his hooves. Unhurried early, Arrogate was 5½ lengths behind the early leaders after the first quarter mile, 4½ lengths back after a half mile and was still fourth, 5 lengths back after 6 furlongs.
Arrogate did finally pass a horse, a dead-tired El Huerfano, who stumbled so badly at the start that jockey Evin Roman’s feet came out of the stirrups and lost control over his mount.
Arrogate didn’t finish last, but he was beaten 15¼ lengths by Accelerate, and the silence at Del Mar was deafening.
Arrogate’s off-the-board finish triggered outlandish payouts in the place and show pools. More than $1.3 million was wagered on Arrogate to show and $792,216 was wagered on him to place.
Accelerate, the wire-to-wire winner, paid $17.60, $32.60, and $22 across the board.
Donworth, a 24-1 shot who finished second, returned $119.80 and $67.40, a track record, bettering the old mark of $101.60 and $40.20 set by Cipria on Sept. 1, 1955. Arrogate paid $38.20 to show.
Smith said he was at a loss for words, just as Arrogate’s backers were at a loss for money.
“He was just flat — so flat,” Smith said. “He wasn’t trying.”
Renowned trainer Bob Baffert explained it this way.
“He just laid an egg,” he said. “That’s why my hair is white.”
Arrogate was a huge betting favorite to win Saturday’s San Diego Handicap at Del Mar Racetrack, but instead, finished a distant fourth to see his seven-race winning streak snapped by Accelerate.