03/26/2017 9:22AM

Watchmaker: Arrogate is great, of that there is no question


People probably think I would rather walk barefoot on broken glass than invoke the term “great.” They’re not entirely wrong.

If you want to know why, it’s Secretariat’s fault. He made a profound impression on me that lasts to this very day and became for me, as well as many, many others, the frame of reference for the modern Thoroughbred race horse. And Secretariat did so during the 1970s, a decade packed with outstanding race horses – a true golden age.

For this reason, I bristle at how loosely the term “great” has been bestowed on some horses of fairly recent vintage. I feel it devalues the true meaning of the word. Now, I’m not saying there haven’t been any truly great horses since the 1970s; of course there have. But I won't relax my standards of greatness to fulfill the desire to have great horses around. I think you’re just kidding yourself if you do.

Having said that, after what Arrogate did in Saturday’s Dubai World Cup, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that he is a truly great horse. In fact, Arrogate might be one of the greatest of all time. He might be right up there with Secretariat, Citation, and Man o’ War, and you have no idea what a surprise it is for me to see those words fall out of my keyboard, because I never thought they ever would. But Arrogate is great. Of that there is no question.

This I know: In relatively no time at all, Arrogate has redefined seemingly immovable parameters, and has become the frame of reference for the 21st century Thoroughbred race horse.

It seems impossible. After all, Arrogate’s racing career isn’t even one year old, and his stakes career is only seven months old and spans all of four races. Yet in this blink of an eye, Arrogate defeated a two-time Horse of the Year in California Chrome twice, first in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, America’s most important horse race, and then in the Pegasus World Cup, currently the world’s richest Thoroughbred event.

And then Arrogate traveled halfway across the globe to win the Dubai World Cup, currently the world’s second-richest Thoroughbred race, on an international stage, over an international field, and did so overcoming a world’s worth of trouble that would have undone most, if not all, of the consensus greatest horses of the last four decades.

What horse has accomplished what Arrogate has in just a short period of time? I can’t think of one. There just aren’t any comps for this.
Which means Arrogate is not only truly great, he’s a true original, too. It’s a privilege to watch him work.

Saturday notes:

** The next logical thing to do is contemplate what Arrogate will do next. Surely he will be pointed to repeat engagements in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus. If you work backward from there, the Pacific Classic makes the most sense. Easterners would certainly love to see him, say, at Saratoga. But with this year’s Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar, that would seem like a longshot.

** I used to chuckle when European horsemen would retire the latest superstar after five or six starts, claiming there was “nothing left for him to prove.” Now, let me be clear: I’m not advocating Arrogate's retirement at all. But after only eight career starts, four of them stakes, Arrogate really does have little left to prove. To me, anyway.

** Mind Your Biscuits’s winning performance in the Dubai Golden Shaheen was compelling. He was miles the best after conceding a huge amount of ground due to a widest-of-all trip. I’d love to see Mind Your Biscuits go for the Met Mile on the Belmont Stakes undercard, which could be a tremendous race this year even by Met Mile standards with such potential starters as Sharp Azteca (who ran a winning race in defeat in the Godolphin Mile), Unified, Midnight Storm, Whitmore, and, if he can get back to working, Drefong.

** The Kentucky Derby is in play for Thunder Snow, who edged a game Epicharis in the UAE Derby. The initial word on Epicharis, who has a spot in the Derby by virtue of winning the “Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby,” has him instead awaiting the Preakness and/or Belmont.

What Triple Crown impact either might have is open to debate considering that Master Plan finished a gaining third in the UAE Derby. Even in this wide-open (some would also say underwhelming) Kentucky Derby year, Master Plan is a decided cut below the best. Prior to the UAE Derby, Master Plan beat a weak field in the OBS Championship on Ocala’s synthetic surface, and before that, he was a gaining second to Tapwrit in the Pulpit Stakes, though that was an off-the-turf event run in the slop and in very slow time. I suppose it’s possible, if not necessarily plausible, that Master Plan improved in a major way Saturday. But that would have to be the case for Thunder Snow and Epicharis to be first-level Triple Crown contenders.

** Whether or not you think upset Spiral Stakes winner Fast and Accurate has a prayer in the Kentucky Derby – he is 3 for 3 since adding Lasix, but those victories came in a maiden claimer in December at Turfway, an allowance race disguised as a stakes on the turf at Gulfstream, and then in a soft renewal of the Spiral - a bit of discretion is appropriate here. Fast and Accurate is not a Triple Crown nominee, so this is not a $600 regular Triple Crown nomination or even a $6,000 late nomination shot in the dark. It will cost owner Kendall Hansen $200,000 to supplement Fast and Accurate to the Derby. If a man puts up that kind of coin, it seems like the polite thing to do is be quiet while he rolls the dice, even if you think there are 10 million better ways to spend that money.

** The odds on the all-stakes Turfway pick 3 completed by the 24-1 Fast and Accurate (the first two winners were Montu at 17-1 in the Rushaway and Purely a Dream at 12-1 in the Bourbonette Oaks) was almost 7,000-1.