08/15/2017 7:58PM

Pacific Classic a re-proving ground for Arrogate

Emily Shields
Arrogate drew post 8 for Saturday's Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar.

DEL MAR, Calif. – The Pacific Classic came into being in 1991, seven years after the first Breeders’ Cup. This year marks the first time that the Breeders’ Cup will be run at Del Mar, and that is one of the reasons the Pacific Classic this Saturday is so vitally important for the participants, especially Arrogate, for it mirrors the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 4, a 1 1/4-mile dirt race at Del Mar.

Arrogate still acts like the king of the hill out here. Every morning that he trains, as he did Wednesday, he’ll stand in the chute near the six-furlong pole for minutes on end, looking seemingly disdainfully at the lesser horses who gallop by before he decides to proceed. But the ground under his feet has gotten shakier.

For whatever reasons that can be ascribed to his belly flop last month in the San Diego Handicap, Arrogate needs to show that the surface here is not a sinkhole for him. He has won powerfully at Saratoga and Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park and Meydan over the past year, but his record at Del Mar is less dynamic, a fourth-place finish in the San Diego and a narrow allowance win last summer.

His trainer, Bob Baffert, admitted that one of the reasons he’s coming back for more Saturday is because the Breeders’ Cup is here.

“If the Breeders’ Cup wasn’t here, maybe I’d have been reluctant to run him back,” Baffert said. “But we’ve got to find out.”

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Baffert said Arrogate has acted well in the four weeks since the San Diego.

“He’s pretty happy. He looks good,” said Baffert, who pushed his hands forward, like he was sitting at a poker table, and said, “I’m all in with Arrogate.”

Arrogate drew the outside post in a field of eight when posts were drawn late Tuesday afternoon for the Grade 1, $1 million Pacific Classic, which will be shown live on NBCSN during a one-hour telecast that begins at 5 p.m. Pacific.

With such a short field and a long run to the first turn, posts likely will be immaterial. What matters for Arrogate, Baffert said, is not what post Arrogate ended up in, but “if he shows up” after pulling a no-show in the San Diego.

“He had a good post last time,” Baffert said.

Arrogate was the 1-20 favorite in the San Diego. Reflecting some of the uncertainty raised by his last effort, Del Mar linemaker Russell Hudak made Arrogate even-money for the Pacific Classic. He’s the favorite, but not an overwhelming one.

Collected, also trained by Baffert, is the second choice at 5-2, with Accelerate, who won the San Diego, next at 3-1.

Everyone else is 15-1 or higher.

John Sadler, who trains Accelerate, was contemplating putting his horse Hard Aces in the Grade 2, $250,000 Del Mar Handicap on turf, also on Saturday, but decided Wednesday to keep him in the Pacific Classic. Had Hard Aces entered the Del Mar Handicap, he would have been required to immediately scratch from the Pacific Classic.

Like Baffert and Sadler, Doug O’Neill also has two runners, Curlin Road and Donworth.

The longshots Royal Albert Hall and Sorry Erik round out the field.