01/25/2017 3:16PM

Arrogate ‘on sharper side' for Pegasus World Cup

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Barbara D. Livingston
Arrogate, with Dana Barnes up, trains over the Gulfstream Park track on Wednesday morning.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Arrogate took off from California on Tuesday as the Eclipse Award-winning 3-year-old of 2016, and runner-up to California Chrome for Horse of the Year, but by the time he had arrived here at Gulfstream Park for the $12 million Pegasus World Cup on Saturday he had been declared the best horse in the world in ratings published by Longines and the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities.

“They can have Horse of the Year, we’ve got the best horse in the world,” Jim Barnes, the assistant trainer for Arrogate, said while laughing Wednesday morning.

For a horse who has run a mere six times, Arrogate has rocketed to stardom under the care of Barnes and his boss, trainer Bob Baffert. While Arrogate was so far under the radar coming into the Travers that he was dismissed at 11-1, he was the close second choice to California Chrome when Arrogate won the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and those two will vie for favoritism Saturday.

Among currently active racehorses, they are a surefire quinella. California Chrome outpointed Arrogate for Horse of the Year, Arrogate outpointed California Chrome in the international rankings.

But while California Chrome is retiring from racing after Saturday, Arrogate is scheduled to race through the end of this year. And based on how he has progressed in recent months, it’s certainly conceivable that Arrogate has more to give. His 2017 campaign should be compelling.

Arrogate smoothly settled into his routine at Gulfstream Park on Wednesday morning, gliding around the track under exercise rider Dana Barnes – Jim’s wife – as though he’d been here for a month.

“He always floats. That’s how he goes,” Dana Barnes said.

Arrogate appears to have developed physically since the Travers, even the Breeders’ Cup.

“He looks like he’s gotten taller,” said Jim Barnes, who said Arrogate was weighed recently at a robust 1,178 pounds.

The factors that have contributed to Arrogate’s rapid rise are threefold. Baffert patiently delayed his debut owing to sore shins at age 2; had he pressed on, it might have been counterproductive. Arrogate has a lung capacity at which jockey Mike Smith has marveled.

“He’s got stamina that doesn’t seem to end,” Smith said. “He’s relentless.”

And Arrogate has become far more sensible in his training, which Baffert credits to the daily routine with Dana Barnes.

“We changed riders, put Dana on, and got him to settle down,” Baffert said.

Arrogate has not had an ideal training schedule heading into this race, owing to the wet weather that has plagued Southern California in the past month, a situation California Chrome avoided by heading here earlier. But Arrogate got his works in, and Baffert is convinced Arrogate is ready. Training for a major race off a lengthy layoff is in Baffert’s wheelhouse. Both Arrogate and American Pharoah won the Breeders’ Cup Classic without a race following the Travers, and Baffert is bringing Arrogate into the Pegasus without a race following the Breeders’ Cup, whereas California Chrome had a paid workout in the Los Alamitos Winter Championship.

“I’m so familiar doing that. It doesn’t bother me,” Baffert said. “I did it back in my Quarter Horse days, pointing for a big futurity.”

Baffert entered Arrogate in the San Pasqual at Santa Anita earlier this month, but finally decided not to run owing to wet weather, though his heart was never fully in it.

“I was halfway in,” he said. “I was looking for an excuse out, and the weather came.”

The time off, Smith said, may be beneficial for the Pegasus. The race is at 1 1/8 miles, a furlong shorter than the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Arrogate drew the rail, so he’ll need to leave alertly to avoid having traffic fold over on him.

Coming into the race without a prep “puts him on the sharper side,” Smith said.

“Being where we’re drawn, that might be what we need,” Smith said. “You have to hope he breaks well and we get a good position into the first turn. It could be a blessing he’s going in a little sharper.”

Smith said Arrogate runs the turns well, which will be important at a track like Gulfstream.

“The turns are big. My horse runs the turns very well,” Smith said. “I hope I can really use that to my advantage.”

The biggest advantage Smith may have, though, is that Arrogate never seems to tire. After both the Travers and the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Smith was amazed at how quickly Arrogate shook off the effort.

“Pulled up, one breath, we’re done,” Smith said of how Arrogate felt after the race. “You’re supposed to be hanging your head. I know he’s got that kind of air, that kind of stamina. And he’s got a stride that’s unmatchable.”