One of the many remarkable aspects to Arrogate’s victory in the Dubai World Cup was that no one mentioned the money. Bob Baffert’s colt had just completed an 11-month journey from zero to $17m in prize money, overtaking every other thoroughbred in history as he did so, and it did not even rate as an afterthought. It was all about the horse and the performance, the “wow” and the “where next?”
There are so many horses and so many races around the world that, over time, even Derby and Arc winners can begin to blend together in the memory but every few years a racehorse does something that is spectacular. Dancing Brave’s Arc, Zenyatta’s Breeders’ Cup Classic and Frankel’s 2,000 Guineas are three that come immediately to mind. Arrogate in Dubai is surely another and, unusually for a horse running on dirt, it felt as though much of the racing world was watching.
At one stage Saturday threatened to be the day when the decision to rip up Meydan’s old Tapeta track and replace it with dirt came unstuck. Persistent rain, the first at a World Cup meeting for many years, turned the official going to “muddy” and summoned memories of the Breeders’ Cup at Monmouth Park 10 years ago, when the horses were to all intents going through the surface and galloping on concrete, and the wonderful George Washington suffered a fatal injury in the Classic.
But Arrogate rose above the slop and did something that, even for a really good Group One horse, should have been difficult. After walking out of the gates it should have been a real struggle, a race that he won, if he won it at all, with a desperate lunge for the line in the dying strides. Instead he did it easily, with a furlong – 10% of the entire trip – still to go.
He returned to the winner’s enclosure caked in mud but with his reputation massively enhanced and advertised globally in a fashion that very few American horses ever enjoy. He won without Lasix, too, just as California Chrome did last year, showing once again that it is possible for US-trained horses to produce their best form without the crutch of race-day medication.
Saturday may well be the one and only time in Arrogate’s career when he runs drug-free, as Prince Khalid does not have a deal of form when it comes to running five-year-olds, not least when they have already achieved as much as Arrogate. He also seems certain to remain in the States for the rest of this year, with Baffert already determined to work backwards from the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar in early November once Arrogate has enjoyed a well-earned rest.
As a result it is very possible that Arrogate’s career has passed the halfway stage already and could extend only to another two or three starts. In less than a year he has already all but guaranteed a huge lead in the all-time money list when he does retire to stud, as a second win in the Classic would take him comfortably past $20m. And there will, no doubt, be another ultimate target for Arrogate in the minds of many racing fans: the official rating of 140 that established Frankel as the best racehorse of modern times.
There is an argument – a good one – that dirt and turf are such different surfaces that ratings-based comparisons between horses that stick to one or the other are tenuous at best. A rating tells only part of the story in any case and Arrogate is as unlikely to run on grass as Frankel always was to set foot on dirt. Wherever Arrogate ends up in the list, it will trivialise them both to use a simple number to state that one is “better” than the other.
That will not stop people doing it, though, and Arrogate’s mark of 134 at the end of last season already puts him only 6lb shy of Frankel’s official all-time high.
Timeform, which has been rating US-trained runners since the turn of the century, had Arrogate 8lb behind Frankel at the end of last year, on 138.
The last few pounds are the hardest to earn by far, however. Jockeys set out to win Group One races, not maximise a rating while doing so, and a great horse also needs high-quality opposition to establish its superiority.
An above-average Kentucky Derby winner to face off against Arrogate in the Breeders’ Cup Classic later in the year would make things interesting but those, by definition, do not come along every year. So for the moment the ratings can wait. For the first time since Frankel there is a racehorse in the here and now, doing things that racehorses are not supposed to do and, best of all, he still has a season in front of him.
GREG WOOD’S MONDAY SELECTIONS
2.00 Ruwasi 2.30 He’s A Bully 3.00 Groundunderrepair 3.30 Goonjim 4.00 Goodnight Charlie 4.30 Finnegan’s Garden 5.00 Jubilympics
1.40 Louis’Vac Pouch 2.10 Monkhouse 2.40 All My Love 3.10 Future Gilded 3.40 Karisma King 4.10 Ardmayle (nb) 4.40 Reine Des Miracles 5.10 Doctor Thea
1.50 Wurood 2.20 Cahar Fad 2.50 Mosman 3.20 Earthly 3.50 All For The Best (nap) 4.20 Vivre La Reve 4.50 Frank Cool 5.20 Mr Potter