The moon coming between Earth and the sun isn’t the only Eclipse talk that should be occurring Monday, at least not after watching Arrogate go down to a second consecutive defeat in Saturday’s Pacific Classic (G1).
After scintillating victories in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) and Dubai World Cup (G1) to start the year, Arrogate now has a real fight on his hands to cling to an older dirt male championship (not to mention a Horse of the Year title) he was an overwhelming favorite to win not too long ago.
Given his success in the world’s two richest races, Arrogate might still be the pro tem leader of the division despite his half-length loss to Collected at Del Mar. But that position looks increasingly tenuous.
Gun Runner, who was second best to Arrogate in Dubai, has come out of that particular race with his chest out, strutting his stuff against outclassed opposition in the Stephen Foster H. (G1) and Whitney (G1). Having overtaken Arrogate on top of this week’s NTRA weekly poll, he’ll look to continue that trend in the Woodward (G1) on Labor Day weekend.
Meanwhile, Arrogate hit bottom in the San Diego H. (G2) and was largely unimpressive, by his lofty standards, for about nine-tenths of the Pacific Classic.
While still a strong race and much better than his San Diego dud, Arrogate will clearly need to find the form we saw from him last year and this past winter to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) against the likes of Gun Runner and Collected, who is now undefeated in four tries this year and is now a legitimate contender for the title. I’d even throw in another Bob Baffert trainee, Cupid, who cruised in the Gold Cup (G1) and will be using Wednesday’s $75,000 Harry F. Brubaker at Del Mar as a prep for the Awesome Again (G1), as a potential dark horse candidate should he run the table.
Given Baffert’s solemn reaction to winning the Pacific Classic with “the other horse,” it’s fairly evident he’d prefer to see Arrogate finish off the season the way he started. So would a lot of people. However, if he happens to fall short again in what figures to be the division’s definitive race of the year, especially to any of the aforementioned trio, he wouldn’t deserve to win a championship after running up a huge score in the first quarter and playing lackluster ball the rest of the game.
Having noted last year the major disconnect between the results of the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) this decade and the subsequent voting proclivities of the Eclipse Award electorate, perhaps Arrogate has built up too much goodwill and likeability among a majority that decide these things to deny him, as was the case with certain other horses of recent years. He is, after all, North America’s all-time leading money winner, and his four-stakes win streak from the Travers (G1) through Dubai was as good as it gets from a conventional Thoroughbred.
Arrogate’s been lingering in the red zone a long time now. From this vantage point, it’s up to him whether he wants to punch it in or continue scrambling and recklessly turn the championship over.