09/02/2016 1:00PM

Arrogate just getting started

Barbara D. Livingston
Arrogate had to overcome shin problems as a 2-year-old and as a result didn't make his first start until April of his 3-year-old season.

DEL MAR, Calif. – A few days after Arrogate arrived back at Del Mar following his victory last Saturday in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, trainer Bob Baffert brought him out of his stall to show visitors. Baffert joked that Arrogate was “the fastest horse in the world,” then got out a measuring stick to see how tall Arrogate currently stood – just over 16-2 hands, if you’re scoring at home – before remarking about Arrogate’s steel-gray coat, “He looks a lot like Spectacular Bid.”

Comparisons like Baffert’s have come rolling in for Arrogate in the wake of his Travers performance. From a raw time standpoint, HE is the point of reference, for his clocking of 1:59.36 for 1 1/4 miles at Saratoga was a track record, wiping General Assembly from the record book. From a Beyer Speed Figure standpoint, his 122 is superior to any 3-year-old this year and second only to the 123 that Frosted rang up in his dazzling Met Mile win.

In less than five months, Arrogate has gone from “who?” to “wow!” He did not make his debut until April, and the Travers was his first stakes start.

The reason Arrogate did not get to the races until April, Baffert said, is that he had a troublesome shin when training last summer at age 2, so Baffert gave him time to get through that common hiccup among 2-year-olds.

When Arrogate came back in earlier this year and began serious training, “He had completely morphed,” Baffert said.

“He got tall, lanky. He grew up,” Baffert said.

Baffert said Arrogate now will head straight into the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 5 at Santa Anita, mirroring the schedule he had last year with American Pharoah coming out of the Travers. Considering the unsettled nature of the 3-year-old male division right now, plus the prospective Classic field – California Chrome, Frosted, et al – Arrogate could very well secure a year-end title if he were to win.

Or, he could end up like the band Dramarama, a one-hit wonder.

Since the Eclipse Awards era began in 1971, the closest comparison to Arrogate at this point is Tiznow, who did not race until April of his 3-year-old year in 2000, missed the Triple Crown, and made his stakes debut in July, winning the Affirmed. In the fall, Tiznow won the Super Derby, then beat older runners in the Goodwood and BC Classic, part of a streak in which he earned Beyers of 114 or higher in four straight races. That brought him titles as Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male.

What helped Tiznow’s quest for the 3-year-old championship is that, like this year, three different horses won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont. The champion older male that year, Lemon Drop Kid, finished fifth behind Tiznow in the BC Classic.

There are six other instances since 1971 of horses winning the 3-year-old male title without a Triple Crown race win. As in 2000 with Tiznow, in four of those years the Triple Crown races were won by three different horses. But in two cases – Holy Bull in 1994 and Key to the Mint in 1972 – horses were adjudged so exceptional that they were able to beat out horses who won two-thirds of the Triple Crown.

Holy Bull was off the Triple Crown trail after finishing 12th as the favorite in the Derby, but he was perfect the rest of the year, with victories in the Met Mile, Haskell, Travers, and Woodward bringing him Eclipse Awards as best 3-year-old male – beating out Tabasco Cat, who won the Preakness and Belmont – and Horse of the Year.

Key to the Mint did not run in the Derby, then lost both the Preakness and Belmont, but won the Brooklyn, Whitney, Travers, and Woodward in the summer and fall to wrest the title from Riva Ridge, who had won the Derby and Belmont.

Wajima in 1975 missed the entire Triple Crown, whose races were won by three different horses, giving Wajima the opportunity to seize the title. He romped by 10 lengths in the Travers, part of a five-race win streak that included the Marlboro Cup, and finished second to the mighty Forego – who was winning the second of three straight Horse of the Year titles – in the Woodward.

In 1983, another year in which three different horses won the Triple Crown races, Slew o’ Gold earned a divisional Eclipse Award despite losing the Derby and Belmont, plus the Haskell and Travers. But late-season victories against older horses in the Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup, combined with an early-season triumph in a division of the Wood Memorial, put him over the top.

Skip Away in 1996 lost all three Triple Crown races – which were won by three different horses – as well as the Travers. But he earned the championship based on victories in the Blue Grass in the spring and the Haskell, Woodbine Million, and Jockey Club Gold Cup in the summer and fall.

Will Take Charge in 2013 was well beaten in the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont – again a year when different horses won all three legs of the Triple Crown – but he won the Travers and Pennsylvania Derby and then was narrowly beaten by the older horse Mucho Macho Man in the BC Classic.

Arrogate now gets his chance to add his name to that list. He could be anything, anything.