‘The best since Secretariat’: Arrogate inspires awe with dominant Dubai World Cup win
Secretly before the start of the 22nd Emirates Dubai World Cup, Bob Baffert had hoped that Arrogate would break California Chrome’s track record set 12 months ago.
When Arrogate and Mike Smith were left stranded at the start after the field broke for the $10 million prize, Baffert wished he had never come to the UAE for the first time since his heart attack here in 2012.
This was the world’s best horse – the highest-rated to ever grace the Dubai dirt and the most overwhelming favourite to ever line up in the 2000-metre contest – made a laughing stock.
Just 2m.02.15s later the roan colt with the robust frame and the long, raking stride had galloped to the most extraordinary performance ever seen to win the World Cup going back to when Cigar anointed the inaugural race in 1996.
The history books will read that Arrogate beat fellow US raiders Gun Runner by two and a quarter lengths with Neolithic five lengths behind in third. The majesty, the beauty and the engine that this colt possesses, however, will only be remembered by the use of video or the memory seared across the brains of the estimated 60,000 crowd.
“When he turned for home I turned to my wife and said that if he wins then this horse is the best since Secretariat,” an emotional Baffert said.
“I thought this was going to be embarrassing but then it was like watching a Hollywood finish – it was like watching Seabiscuit or something.
“I am glad my heart doctor was not here because I was on red alert. He almost killed me waiting that long.”
It was a first win in the race for owner Khalid Abdullah, and although the ageing Saudi Arabian prince was watching on television he must have allowed himself a smile when Smith returned jubilantly to the winner’s enclosure draped in his country’s flag.
Abdullah now has owned the two best turf horses to have ever run on grass in Frankel and Dancing Brave. Just a few years after Frankel posted 14 straight victories in Britain, Arrogate has thrown down the gauntlet to those in the thoroughbred dirt pantheon. It is a sensational achievement.
Tiznow is the only horse to have won two Breeders’ Cups in succession and Arrogate will now be rested in preparation to draw level with that most gutsy of competitors at Del Mar in November.
If Arrogate exceeded the pre-race hype, he would have been nothing without the calm head of jockey Mike Smith who used all of his 35 years experience in the saddle to get his partner home.
As Arrogate broke from gate nine, Furia Cruzada and Keen Ice pincered him while Mickael Barzalona ushered the Al Maktoum Challenge winner Long River to the front of the 14-runner column.
Arrogate was at least ten lengths off the pace but Smith let his mount find his rhythm. As the field whipped in to the second bend Gun Runner and Neolithic were duelling at the head of the field, while Smith and Arrogate were slowly picking off rivals. One by one. Inch by inch.
Coming out of the turn Arrogate came on the outside of Mubtaahij and gave last year’s runner-up a bump for good measure. With no turn to inconvenience him, Arrogate started to devour the ground and within 100 metres he had picked up and spat out Neolithic. In another 100 metres, he had caught Gun Runner, and from there the engine just kept on purring to propel him towards a memorable win.
It was Baffert’s third World Cup after Silver Charm in 1998 and Captain Steve in 2001.
“It was like half-time at the Super Bowl this year,” Baffert added. “He was like New England a few months ago and Mike Smith was Tom Brady and pulled it out.
“I don’t know if any other jockey could have been that patient with him.”
Smith was the regular partner of Unbridled’s Song, Arrogate’s sire, and has now guided his son to all four of his Grade 1 victories. The 51-year-old has ridden some of the best horses in America at the Breeders’ Cup and through the Triple Crown series, but in the twilight of his career the jockey believes he finally has found the chosen one.
“I’m just so blessed that God has given me a horse like this towards the end of my career,” he said. “I’m going to break down and cry. He is the best I have ever been on, he truly is. He is the world’s horse now.”
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Updated: March 25, 2017 04:00 AM