01/29/2017 1:26PM

New chapters begin for Arrogate and California Chrome

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Barbara D. Livingston
California Chrome departs the Gulfstream barn for the last time en route to a van and then a flight to Kentucky.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Arrogate and California Chrome met for the last time Sunday morning, when they flew together to Kentucky. Their paths were to diverge from there, with Arrogate set to resume his brilliant, still-young racing career in California, and California Chrome staying in Kentucky and headed to the breeding shed.

They had met Saturday, in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup here at Gulfstream Park, but the rematch of their thrilling duel in the Breeders’ Cup Classic was one-sided, with Arrogate rolling to a dominating victory, and California Chrome fading badly to finish ninth. He emerged from the race with an injury to his right knee.

Arrogate came out of the race well and, after stopping in Kentucky to see off California Chrome, he was headed to Santa Anita, where the rest of his 2017 campaign is to be determined. The main goal, at year’s end, is a title defense in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, to be run at Del Mar, but everything else – when he’ll run next, how many starts he’ll have this year – will be sorted out later by trainer Bob Baffert.

Baffert spread the thanks around following Saturday's race, citing assistant Jimmy Barnes, exercise rider Dana Barnes – Jimmy’s wife – jockey Mike Smith, groom Eduardo “Lalo” Luna, and Martin Garcia – the jockey who works Arrogate – as instrumental in the horse's success.

“I have a great team,” said Baffert, who thanked Juddmonte owner Prince Khalid Abdullah “for trusting us.”

But they couldn’t do it without the incredible talent of Arrogate, who has shown in the Travers, Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Pegasus that he is the best horse currently racing. He got a Beyer Speed Figure of 116 in the Pegasus, following a 122 in the Travers and 120 in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He is the first horse to get Beyer figures of 116 or better in three straight races since Ghostzapper, who did it over the space of 11 months in 2003-2004, with two of those races sprints.

On figures, Arrogate is even faster than American Pharoah, Baffert’s Triple Crown winner of 2015. There is no parallel to their careers, since American Pharoah raced at 2, was on a prescribed schedule to make the Triple Crown, and was through racing by the end of his 3-year-old year. But Arrogate is obviously brilliant in his own right, rocketing to the top of the charts since his debut just nine months ago.

“They make life so much easier as a trainer,” Baffert said. “They are superior animals.”

California Chrome was scheduled to make the final start of his career in the Pegasus, but there was no storybook final chapter to his storybook career, as the two-time Horse of the Year was struggling to keep up with more than three furlongs to go in the 1 1/8-mile race. As California Chrome cooled out after the race, trainer Art Sherman said he was showing discomfort in his right knee.

On Sunday morning, shortly before California Chrome was to fly to Kentucky and take up residence at Taylor Made Farm, farm co-owner Frank Taylor said California Chrome had “some heat and some filling” in the knee.

“He’s sound to walk, but he’s off at the jog,” Taylor said.

California Chrome was perfectly fine to travel to Kentucky, but Taylor said he would be X-rayed on arrival at Taylor Made, and that the X-rays would be read by the noted veterinarian Dr. Larry Bramlage. Barring something unforeseen, Taylor said California Chrome would be able to be bred to mares, and in fact he was scheduled to be in the company of some test mares on Wednesday as he is quickly taught his new duties; the breeding season commences in mid-February.

“Normally we get them right after the Breeders’ Cup, have a bigger window,” Taylor said. “He’s not going to have to put much weight on his front legs for awhile. It would be different if it was a hind leg.”

Taylor said that if California Chrome “is sound to walk, he’s sound to breed mares.” He said his hope was that the X-rays would show nothing untoward, because he’d like to turn California Chrome out in a paddock. “Let him be a horse,” he said.

California Chrome was brought out of his stall at Gulfstream Park shortly after 8:30 a.m. and walked – without showing any discomfort – to the awaiting horse van. A large crowd, mostly of his fans, followed as groom Raul Rodriguez led him to the van. Rodriguez and Taylor Made’s stallion manager, Gilberto Terrazas, were to fly with him on the Tex Sutton charter to Kentucky.

After California Chrome loaded on the van, and Rodriguez waved goodbye, several in the crowd started weeping.

“We’ve never had a horse this popular with the people at our farm,” said Duncan Taylor, Frank’s brother and another farm co-owner.

So that chapter has ended. But for Arrogate, much appears left to be written.