Updated on 11/03/2016 1:24PM

Hard to bad-mouth Arrogate

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Barbara D. Livingston
Arrogate's teeth problems didn't keep him from scoring a record-setting Travers victory that earned a 122 Beyer.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Arrogate resides in trainer Bob Baffert’s Santa Anita barn in a stall that has webbing reading, “American Pharoah: Triple Crown winner” draped across the front. As with American Pharoah a year ago, Arrogate will not have raced since the Travers when he attempts to win the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Saturday.

And while American Pharoah certainly was far more accomplished than Arrogate, they share a mysterious backstory regarding their appearance, which in Arrogate’s case involves a mouth that only an orthodontist could love.

Arrogate, a son of Unbridled’s Song, was purchased by Juddmonte Farms for $560,000 as a yearling. When he was broken to saddle that fall, “the first time we put a bit in his mouth, we noticed all his teeth were knocked back in,” said Garrett O’Rourke, the manager of Juddmonte’s Kentucky-based United States operation.

“It’s like American Pharoah’s tail,” O’Rourke said, referring to the abbreviated tail American Pharoah had when he first came to Baffert’s barn. “No one will admit how it happened.”

The leading theory with American Pharoah was that another yearling chewed on his tail in the field. O’Rourke figures something similar happened with Arrogate.

“It looks like another yearling must have kicked him in the mouth,” he said.

Arrogate’s left front tooth became so infected that it had to be pulled, O’Rourke said.

“If he were human, he wouldn’t do a lot of smiling,” Baffert said. “He looks like he plays for the Blackhawks. I think every hockey player will be rooting for him.”

No adjustments have been made to Arrogate’s teeth since he began racing. The bit doesn’t sit close to the front teeth, so that’s not an issue. About the only accommodation is “it takes him a little longer to eat,” Baffert said, “but he eats well.

“But he can’t get a good bite out of you,” Baffert said.

Arrogate has saved that for his competition. Since losing his first start in a sprint at Los Alamitos in April, Arrogate has won four straight races, all around two turns, highlighted by a powerhouse performance in the Travers in which he set a track record for 1 1/4 miles at Saratoga while earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 122.

“He’s taking on California Chrome, which is a tall order,” O’Rourke said of the Classic, “but he has a legitimate chance.”

Arrogate is part of a growing relationship between Juddmonte, which is owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and Baffert. Juddmonte had a large presence on the West Coast for more than two decades, primarily with trainer Bobby Frankel, but that waned in the years following Frankel’s death in November 2009.

A couple of years ago, according to O’Rourke, the prince spoke of a desire to re-establish a presence on the West Coast. “He wanted to know who was the best trainer out there, and I said Baffert,” O’Rourke said.

Juddmonte primarily races on turf, and most of its United States-based runners either have grass pedigrees and/or are raced in Europe before coming to the U.S., such as they did with Flintshire, the favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Turf who is trained by Chad Brown in New York. Baffert is not a grass trainer, having famously once said grass is good only for grazing. How to align the wishes of Juddmonte with the skill of Baffert?

“We decided to stick with dirt horses, and buy them as yearlings,” O’Rourke said. “Bob is brilliant at what he does, training for speed on dirt.”

Arrogate is from the second crop of yearlings purchased by Juddmonte to be sent to Baffert.

The next crop numbered six, and those current 2-year-olds include the unraced Ghostzapper colt Electro, a half-brother to Lady Eli purchased as a yearling for $400,000. He has worked nine times since Sept. 2 and is nearing his debut.

“We’re looking for quality, not quantity,” O’Rourke said.

O’Rourke said that plans are for Arrogate to stay in training at age 4.

“Oh, definitely,” he said. “As fresh as the horse is, and, touch wood, he’s sound and healthy; we’d love to keep doing this.”

That would put a smile on anyone’s face.