June 15, 2021

Arrogate bound for Dubai World Cup

Arrogate captured his initial four stakes appearances, including the Pegasus World Cup (G1) and Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) (c) Melanie Martines @SkimtheRail

After Arrogate pleased connections in his Monday morning work over a mile at Santa Anita, fans didn’t have long to wait for the official decision: the superstar is in fact targeting the March 25 Dubai World Cup (G1) at Meydan.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert revealed the news to XBTV’s Camilla Yakteen and Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman, and social media was set ablaze. This development does not affect the World Cup status of stablemate Hoppertunity, last year’s World Cup third who’s long been planning a return trip.

Although a Dubai tilt was initially downplayed in the wake of Arrogate’s stunning victory in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream Park, the Juddmonte Farms brain trust had been increasingly warming to the idea.

And when the son of Unbridled’s Song continued to train vigorously post-Pegasus, turning a half-mile in :48.60 February 14 and five furlongs in :59 on February 21, the likeliest conclusion was that he was gearing up for something. In bygone years, that would have been the Santa Anita H. (G1), now worth $750,000.

But with the prospect of $10 million on offer in Dubai, the calculus was plain. The $6 million winner’s check would boost Arrogate’s career earnings past the $17 million mark, easily eclipsing his now-retired foe California Chrome’s North American record of $14.7 million. The Meydan showpiece also presents the chance for the world’s top-rated to showcase his talents on an international stage.

One caveat was whether a Dubai World Cup bid would compromise preparations for his fall objective, a repeat in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). No horse has won both in the same calendar year, although California Chrome went close to turning the double last November. It took a horse the caliber of Arrogate to deny him late, underscoring that concerns of a “Dubai bounce” can be overdrawn. Horses can lose form or fail to regain their peak for many reasons, even staying at home, and others have compiled great results after returning from Dubai.

The other, more immediate, factor that had to be considered was how Arrogate exited the Pegasus. Considering his less than ideal preparation after a foot issue, his cross-country shipping to Gulfstream, and track record-setting conquest in 1:46.83 for 1 1/8 miles, he may have needed some down time.

But Arrogate is acting like a horse spoiling for a fight.

“He’s come back from Florida stronger,” private clocker Andy Harrington told Santa Anita publicity Monday. “His last two drills have been terrific, off the charts. It doesn’t look like he’s missed a beat. He’s come out of the Florida race fantastic.”

Arrogate did his part to reinforce that view in his Monday drill, accomplishing the mile in 1:38.40.

“I love the way he went,” Baffert said in the press release. “I had him in :12.21, :24.30, :36.32, :48.29, :59.96, 1:12, 1:24.40 and 1:38 and two (fifths). He gets stronger the further he goes…So far, he’s handled everything well.”

Baffert was giving Juddmonte proprietor Prince Khalid Abdullah time to make the final call.

“The decision will be made by the Prince. All we do is give him the options. Hopefully, we’ll hear something this week.”

The time frame turned out to be dramatically shorter than that, with Prince Khalid giving his blessing forthwith.

Baffert’s post-work comments will provide no comfort to his World Cup rivals.

“He went very well. It looks like he hasn’t regressed at all.”

Yakteen’s tweet was even more pointed: “Bob just got off phone with the Prince. Arrogate goes to Dubai with Teams confidence.”

If Arrogate replicates his American dirt form in Dubai, we can look forward to something very special. California Chrome’s Meydan track record of 2:01.83 may be imperiled.