01/05/2018 12:16PM

2017 Eclipse Awards: Arrogate

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From his brilliant start in Florida to his desultory farewell at Del Mar, Arrogate was the horse who dominated most of the racing headlines in 2017. He ran four times in his homeland and once, memorably, in Dubai, and each time he ran the game stood at attention, as if awaiting a celestial message borne by a true descendant of Pegasus himself.

It was the inaugural Pegasus World Cup in late January that set the season in motion. Arrogate seized the Gulfstream Park stage from California Chrome, the popular, freshly crowned 2016 Horse of the Year, and glided to an uncontested victory in track-record time, while Chrome phoned it in, bothered by either the track, the post, or the sheer spectacle of the event.

Still fresh from his Florida effort, Arrogate was sent to Dubai for the World Cup at Meydan in an attempt to give his owner, Khalid Abdullah, his first victory in the desert classic. The field for the mile and a quarter under the lights was top-heavy with American-based talent and played out according to form, if not expectations.

Given that tactical speed always was Arrogate’s best card, it was alarming to see him break last at the start of the World Cup and remain at the rear of the pack well into the backstretch before Mike Smith, his cool companion, began channeling thoughts of Zenyatta under similar circumstances. Together, Smith and Arrogate gradually made up lost ground, racing wide down the back, hugging the final turn as best they could, and then knifing between horses to set up a final, spectacular run through the stretch.

At the end, with Smith having shut down the big gray engine, Arrogate was 2 1/2 lengths clear of Gun Runner. Superlatives filled the air. Arrogate seemed to be on the threshold of singular greatness. He returned home the conqueror, got a brief rest, and then … nothing. Never before was there such a colossal Dubai bounce.

Arrogate was out of the money in the San Diego, ran a begrudging second to stablemate Collected in the Pacific Classic, and finally finished in a dead heat for fifth in a Breeders’ Cup Classic won by Gun Runner, the horse he had dwarfed in Dubai.

Arrogate’s inexplicable fall from grace was exaggerated by the heights to which he had ascended following what had to be one of the best seven-month runs in modern racing history. Straddling the seasons, his wins in the Travers, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Pegasus, and Dubai World Cup were the stuff of legend, capped by his breathtaking performance in the Middle East. His earnings of more than $17 million are the most for any North American-based horse in history.

Arrogate clearly is an Eclipse Award finalist because, to many voters, he could not have been imagined otherwise.

Abdullah bought Arrogate for $560,000 from breeder Clearsky Farms at the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale. A son of Unbridled’s Song and Bubbler, by Distorted Humor, Arrogate will stand stud at his owner's Juddmonte Farms in Lexington, Ky.