Turning for home with a 1-1/2 length lead and a head full of steam in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, it seemed like a mere formality that California Chrome would add another illustrious chapter to his storied career. This is how these things are supposed to play out anyway, right? The California bred on his home dirt, around the world and back again, pouring it on for his legions of fans that packed into Santa Anita to witness their King’s coronation. It was all playing out perfectly…
Until Arrogate showed up.
The imposing roan colt came charging on the outside, gobbling up ground with his pulverizing stride, closing in on his target like a marathoner who’d hailed a cab to the finish line. Two heavyweights trading wallops until the final bell.
If every story needs a hero, then there must be a villain, and on paper, Arrogate seemed to check all the boxes. Where California Chrome is the “People’s Horse”, Arrogate entered the Classic as more mystery than merit. Making just his 6th career start, his first in over two months and his first against older horses, there was reason to question the readiness of this son of Unbridled’s Song. Where California Chrome was bred for the price of a used Hyundai and trained by a universally liked hardscrabble lifer, Arrogate was simply another perfectly assembled luxury liner in the garage of racing royalty.
Fortunately, it doesn’t work like that in this sport. Sure, there was a collective letdown in the grandstand that evening, but it quickly shifted into mass appreciation for this pair of rivals who gave it everything they had, came home safe and put on one hell of a show.
And now we get to do it all over again this Saturday in the inaugural $12,000,000 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park.
It will be the first start for each since their Breeders’ Cup duel, over a track neither have competed on. Both horses picked up prestigious hardware in the meantime—California Chrome took home the 2016 Horse of the Year Award, while Arrogate was named the 2016 Longines World’s Best Racehorse.
By all accounts both horses are primed and in peak form. They’ll be joined by ten other hopefuls in the starting gate (for which each owner secured for $1 million) on Saturday. The post position draw did neither horse any favors, as Arrogate will break from the rail while Chrome will have to try and save ground from the extreme outside, but make no mistake, these two are simply in a class all their own.
For 6-year-old California Chrome, the Pegasus World Cup will be the swan song to an extraordinary, record-setting career, as he will immediately head off to a well-earned life at stud at Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky.
“We’ve only got a few more mornings to do what we’re doing, so we’re going to take advantage of it,” said trainer Art Sherman. “Look at him, he’s loving it. He’s really something. Most horses don’t like all these cameras but he’s a ham. If you’ve got a camera next to him he’s going to show off. After the race we’re going to say, ‘hey, listen, it’s no more, we’re done,’” Sherman added. “We’ve had him for three years and it’s been great. We really appreciate everything, all the people and what he’s done. It’s been one hell of a ride.”
Arrogate, meanwhile, is embarking on a 4-year-old campaign full of boundless promise.
“I think what makes him so good is that he’s such an efficient mover,” said Jimmy Barnes, assistant to trainer Bob Baffert, of Arrogate. “American Pharoah was almost the same way. He just moved so fluently. He carries himself so well over a surface, I think that’s what makes him so great. His weight’s good and I think he’s grown maybe an inch since [last summer]. We couldn’t be happier.”
Add it all up and you have a healthy recipe for magnificence; a perfectly constructed conclusion void of a villain.
Pegasus World Cup Invitational (Grade I)
Saturday, Jan. 28
Gulfstream Park, Hallandale Beach, FL
Distance: 1-1/8 miles, Dirt
Post Time: 5:40pm (ET)
TV: NBC Sports