Brilliant Arrogate already assured place in pantheon of greats

Brilliant Arrogate already assured place in pantheon of greats
By Sportsbeat

26/03/2017 at 19:25

Sport is fuelled by superlatives but sometimes words can't do justice to performance - you just need to sit back in slack-jawed awe and soak it in through disbelieving eyes.

Arrogate's stunning victory in the $10 million Dubai World Cup relegated some serious players to bit part roles and anointed him as the world's best racehorse, who basks arrogantly in the spotlight certain in the knowledge he is the real deal.

It was a performance of courage and class but, like all superstars, he made it dramatic for extra effect.

It's a bit like declaring a footballer the best-ever after one good season but just eight races into his career, Arrogate's place in the pantheon of greats is already secure.

Twelve months ago he'd never been seen on a race track but already he's won more prize money than any horse in history, $17million and counting.

Those who witnessed the gray colt's track debut on April 17th last year may be forgiven for thinking they weren't in the presence of greatness. Starting an odds-on favourite in a six furlong dash at Los Alamitos, he came home a disappointing third.

However, by late August his star was on the rise, brilliantly winning the grade one Travers Stakes, defeating the winners of the prestigious Preakness and Belmont Stakes in the process.

And a stunning victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic only confirmed the hype.

Arrogate stumbled out of the gates at the Dubai World Cup - the world's richest horse race - and jockey Mike Smith found himself being squeezed at the back of the 14-strong field.

But calmness under fire is a trait that 'Big Money Mike' is renowned for. He stayed patient, trusted the horse beneath him, moved to the outside and accelerated with the line in sight. The more times you watch it, you still can't believe it.

"That was just a wow. If anybody wasn't super impressed with that, they just don't like horse racing. I still can't believe he won that race," said trainer Bob Baffert.

"After he missed the break I was thinking, 'Maybe I shouldn't have brought him. Maybe he's getting tired.' All these things were going through my mind but I knew Mike will take care of him and not abuse him.

"We talk through every eventuality but that was Plan F! He started to make a move and then I got a little hope, he’s just the best I've ever seen in my life, it's unbelievable.

"I thought this was going to be embarrassing but then it was like watching a Hollywood finish – it was like watching Seabiscuit or something, it was so emotional.

"I don't know if any other jockey could have been that patient with him - Mike is just a class apart. Mike did a great job, he didn't panic."

Smith turns 52 this summer and boasts a racing resume without parallel but Arrogate may just be the best he's ever had the privilege to ride.

"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 now because he is the best I have ever been on, he truly is. He is the world's horse now."

As a yearling, the colt was bought for $560,000 by Juddmonte Farms, the racing operation of Khalid bin Abdullah, owner of the legendary Frankel, with whom comparisons are rightly being made.

Frankel finished his flawless 14-race career on a mark of 140, something Arrogate can now aspire to eclipse, as he looks to repeat his Breeders' Cup success at at Del Mar in November.

"Frankel was an incredible horse and maybe Arrogate is the dirt version of Frankel," added Baffert. "It's pretty amazing the two best we've seen have both been owned by the Prince.

"He’s exceptional but you can't really make comparisons with Frankel because it's turf against dirt and that's so different."

Different, yes but just as brilliant — definitely.

Sportsbeat 2017