Even before Arrogate’s tour de force in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) on Saturday, connections were on record saying the $10 million Dubai World Cup (G1) in late March was pretty much off the table. The reported long-range plan is now two or three starts before a repeat bid in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Del Mar in early November.
While it’s always interesting to see the best of America go and compete internationally, Arrogate truly has no other equal at what he does best anywhere in the world, and he doesn’t need to go all the way to Dubai to prove that (again). It also doesn’t hurt to have connections that don’t necessarily “need” the $6 million World Cup’s winner’s share and that aren’t obsessed with maximizing his revenue potential on the racetrack.
Even though the general fan presumably won’t have to max out their credit cards to go across the world to witness Arrogate’s next race, there remains only very limited opportunities left to see him in action. The great parlor game among fans and pundits now is to guess where he’ll show up before the Breeders’ Cup.
If all goes well health-wise, I’d be pleasantly surprised if Arrogate does not make his final Classic prep in the course-and-distance Pacific Classic (G1) in August. The timing between that race and the Breeders’ Cup should not be much different from the gap between the Travers (G1) and Classic last year, which worked out pretty well for all involved.
Will Arrogate stay home in California all spring and summer? It’s certainly possible, but a return trip to New York for the Met Mile (G1) and/or Whitney (G1) should offer some appeal. I suppose the handicap conditions of the grand, old Metropolitan can be modified or sent to the dust bin permanently if there is a bugaboo about attempts to make it a fair fight, though the Whitney might be too close on the calendar to the Pacific Classic for it to remain in the discussion long term.
He will ultimately never be able to show it over a great quantity of races, but Arrogate has already proven to be a singular talent. Ed DeRosa has already written of his Brisnet Speed Ratings and how they compare with others going back to the early 1990s. Use any other popular speed figure scale you care to and you come up with the same results.
It won’t take more than another significant win for him to be an indisputable future Hall of Famer. Provided there are no significant hiccups the rest of the year, I think he’s already worthy of first ballot induction. Perusing a list of those with plaques in Saratoga Springs, I see several that arguably don’t belong or whose accomplishments pale in comparison to what Arrogate has done in just three stakes appearances. Some of those same horses won fewer divisional titles than Arrogate already has.
It was obviously disappointing that California Chrome was unable to run to par in the Pegasus World Cup, though I doubt he would have denied Arrogate the victory even if he had been at full strength. Arrogate just seemed to be on a slightly higher plane going in and, in a surprise to me, a plurality of bettors felt the same way.
The Pegasus World Cup can be judged a success insofar as it attracted the two best horses in training. It could hardly not with an opportunity for the winner to reap a minimum $6 million profit from a $1 million investment. However, as Gulfstream president Tim Ritvo discussed with Ron Flatter, the economic viability isn’t there yet. I’ll leave it up to the founders of the event to find a way to change that, if they can, but it won’t necessarily be easy if a significant talent gap between participants is again evident in 2018.
I also get the criticism that running this race over 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream is not exactly fair and that increasing the distance to 1 1/4 miles would at least help level the field for those saddled with outside posts. On the flip side, increasing the distance might have the negative effect of widening the gap even more between the few, true mile and a quarter types the industry still produces and their competitors, some of which may find nine furlongs already a stretch. If the latter are dissuaded from taking a shot because of a distance increase, the race might have trouble surviving in its current form.
Having not been in attendance at Gulfstream on Saturday, I can’t speak to the atmosphere and general aesthetics of it playing host to the Pegasus. There’s a lot to be said about a smaller yet crowded venue generating a stronger vibe, but my gut also tells me that an event of this magnitude probably deserves a site capable of serving perhaps twice the number that squeezed in on Saturday. We can’t expect such a noteworthy match-up like this every year, but I’d think the demand for tickets and admission would still be there.
Unfortunately, due to present scheduling and the sport’s historical trajectory of seeing timeless venues capable of hosting decent-sized crowds either wasted away or confined to rubble, alternatives are limited to say the least.