08/27/2016 7:49PM

Watchmaker: Arrogate now a contender for 3-year-old male crown

Barbara D. Livingston
Mike Smith aboard Arrogate after the Travers.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – So, in the wake of Arrogate’s devastating, track-record, runaway score in Saturday’s Travers Stakes, who is the best 3-year-old male in the land?

It might well be Arrogate. What he did in the Travers was amazing stuff, setting a fast pace under pressure and running away through the stretch like he went the first half in 50.84 seconds instead of the 46.84 he did post. And as if racking up a 13 1/2-length victory wasn’t enough, Arrogate ran the fastest 1 1/4 miles in the history of Saratoga at 1:59.36, smashing General Assembly’s 37-year-old track record.

Powerful, powerful stuff. Maybe one of the three or four best performances we’ve seen all year.

But where did this effort come from?

It’s not like Arrogate hadn’t demonstrated considerable potential at the launch of his career in Southern California. He finished third sprinting in his debut last April and then won three straight going two turns, victories that earned him a trip to the Travers.

However, none of Arrogate’s prior three scores were in the same universe as what he did on Saturday. I mean, he freaked in the most extreme sense of the term. In fact, his Travers performance, brilliant as it was, was in such contrast to his prior efforts that it seems only reasonable to require some validation.

Arrogate might well be the best 3-year-old in the land, and it might not even be close. But I need to see him perform even fairly close to the way he did Saturday before I consider his Travers effort to be something I buy into completely.

No question, the biggest disappointment in the Travers was Exaggerator, who was a distant trailer early, made a brief run late on the far turn, and then backed off to be eased under the wire, finishing 11th of 13.

This dismal effort by Exaggerator on a fast track, into a fast pace, makes a very strong case that he is indeed not only pace dependent, but also dependent on a wet track to perform at his best. After all, Exaggerator’s wins in the Haskell, Preakness, and Santa Anita Derby, and his second in the Kentucky Derby (on a track that was plenty wet despite it’s “fast” designation) were all set up by pace and surface.

But his last two dry-track starts resulted in 11th-place place finishes in both the Travers and Belmont. And all of this begs the question of whether it’s wise to award a horse who to this point has been a creation of fantastic pace setups and wet tracks.

Nyquist, on the strength of honest wins in the Kentucky Derby and Florida Derby and a third in the Preakness that I think was the best performance in that race, might still be the ranking 3-year-old male. But his grasp on the division is very shaky.

Which means that perhaps in no small respect, the door is open for Arrogate. But let’s see him do what he did in the Travers again. Like in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Quick Saturday Saratoga notes:

• Lady Eli might have been caught late by Strike Charmer in the Ballston Spa for the first defeat in her seven-race career, but she was a winner Saturday in every other sense of the word.

Lady Eli ran big considering she was beaten less than a length off a 14-month layoff. She ran huge considering that layoff was due to laminitis. And what she did Saturday was tremendous when you take into account that she’s lucky to be alive, let alone racing again, and racing effectively.

Lady Eli made a very strong wide run around the far turn in the Ballston Spa, and even if her move was nicely set up by a fast early pace, that move says Lady Eli is still the Lady Eli we remember and will be a force to be reckoned with going forward.

• Flintshire is so much the best in the male turf division it’s silly, and I say that with all due respect to Ironicus, who was a very good second to Flintshire in the Manhattan last June.

However, as tremendously entertaining as Flintshire’s victories at this Saratoga meet were, let’s not forget that he wasn’t exactly beating horses who will invoke the memory of Manila. The group who tried to box him in in last month’s Bowling Green wasn’t remotely good enough to pull off the gambit.

There were no such machinations Saturday in the Sword Dancer – although Flintshire got two rail passes when barnmates Money Multiplier opened the rail for him around the far turn the final time and rabbit Inordinate did the same turning for home – but the competition really wasn’t all that much stronger.

I do not note this to denigrate Flintshire. He is very, very good, and I am a fan. However, European horsemen will soon get serious about sending real horses over here for the big fall grass stakes, and the competition Flintshire will face will become stronger by many multiples. And he might very well be good enough to meet the challenge. And that, for me, anyway, will be more entertaining than seeing Flintshire again victimize seriously overmatched competition.

• If there was any doubt about Cavorting’s status as the top older dirt female east of Beholder and Stellar Wind, it was eliminated with her better-than-it-looked victory in the Personal Ensign.

With a pace that bordered between deliberate and slow, the Personal Ensign quickly became a race that put a premium on tactics. And Cavorting, in her first career start around two turns or at a distance as far as 1 1/8 miles after winning the Ogden Phipps and Ruffian at Belmont in her last two starts, was up against it tactically, trailing early in the solid field of five.

Yet despite an unfavorable setup, Cavorting was still able to produce a stretch rally from the outside to get up in time, which is very much to her credit. She was decidedly better than her half-length win margin would suggest.

• Likewise, there was little question going into the Forego that A. P. Indian, the winner of his last three starts, including the Alfred G. Vanderbilt earlier in the meet, was the best male sprinter in the East. There was even less doubt after the Forego as A. P. Indian was decidedly best. That said, this edition of the Forego lured a less-than-inspiring field, and the East Coast sprinters are not an especially tough group, at least right now.

• No matter what, Drefong was the speediest and best horse in the King’s Bishop. But it would have been nice to see him have to use his speed to prove his superiority. Instead, the King’s Bishop was giftwrapped for him only a quarter of a mile in.

Drefong was in front and clear in a flash after the start of the King’s Bishop because he is, well, California speed. But when 23.11 was posted for a first-quarter fraction, it was clear there was no California speed, or any other speed, at work. That was walking for Drefong, and because he is a good horse, he thoroughly capitalized on his good fortune with a clear-cut score.

Still, I suggest not penalizing the closers who were soundly beaten by Drefong this time too severely. They had no shot with the way the King’s Bishop was run.

• Much credit to Haveyougoneaway, who made the Ballerina her second graded stakes victory of the Saratoga meet (she won last month’s Honorable Miss). But I do think several Ballerina contestants, for whatever reason, just did not deliver representative performances.

Sheer Drama never moved a muscle, and Wavell Avenue barely did better. Carina Mia finished third as the even-money favorite despite being a 3-year-old against older opponents, but she really shouldn’t have weakened after contesting a first quarter of 23.39, which was slow for a seven-furlong stakes race on a fast track, and her stretch drift was troubling.

• The final times of the three big seven-furlong stakes ranked in predictable order. A. P. Indian went in 1:20.99, Drefong went in 1:21.25, and Haveyougoneaway went in 1:21.63. But frankly, I was a little surprised there wasn’t more of a spread between these times.

GarlandTex1 More than 1 year ago
Mike, I think you are spot on regarding Arrogate. I heard Baffert say that Saturday was the first time they had ever really let Arrogate go full out in the afternoon. If that is true, we may have something really special going on. One could not have asked more from a horse than Arrogate showed Saturday. As I sat there beating my head against my coffee table as he beat the heck out of my bet, his stablemate I kep saying "How many times have I said when Baffert has an entry, always, always, always protect yourself with the longshot". I must have told friends that a 100 times, but did I listen? Of course not. Banging my head again.
Chuck Berger More than 1 year ago
Visually Arrogate's Travers was sensational. Now, after all the accolades, let's look a bit closer at what happened. First, look at your result charts. At least five viable contenders got away poorly at the start. Horses who figured to be running close up to the pace were never in the race. Mike
broke Arrogate sharply from the gate and before the first turn was on a UNCONTESTED lead.
Bejarano on American Freedom was content to stalk his stablemate. Let's face it, had he gone after Arrogate early, Baffert would never use him on another horse.
A class horse going uncontested is money in the bank....................."Katie bar the door." We saw that in the Pacific Classic with Chrome. Into the first turn I said the race is over.
Some will say he ran fast fractions. A classy horse who gets a lone lead can run very fast because he's not under stress. 
Arrogate for the most part was facing many horses who have been in training and racing all year,
much of the time in hot humid weather. Surely some of them were a bit tired.
So, Arrogate did what he did as the race played out. You can't fault him for that. But for anyone to anoint him the leader of the three year crop is a bit premature. BTW, General Assembly who held the Travers record for many years was a nice horse, but certainly not great. Right now until
Arrogate puts together a more complete resume, I will wait on making a judgement.
Enzo Lentini More than 1 year ago
he went the last quarter under 24 and won by 13....he is certainly in the conversation for top 3 yr old....General Assembly won  2 grade 1's 3 grade 2's ran 2nd in 4 grade 1's....all 4 of those seconds were to Spectacular Bid......he was way more than a nice horse
Chuck Seeger More than 1 year ago
Don't forget that General Assembly set that track record in a complete sea of slop.  I was there and his race was a mirror image of how Arrogate ran on Saturday.  Clear early lead, and just kept going.  But the Bid was not in the field.
Enzo Lentini More than 1 year ago
I dont know what being there has to do with anything BUT my point was that Assembly was a terrific horse who was in the same year as Bid and it was nothing at all like Arrogate as he was already a multiple Grade 1 winner who was already established as the 2nd best of his generation AND the race was in a sea of slop AND it was a pretty weak field the filly Davona Dale being the biggest threat AND he had a clear and easy lead by the half.............similarities are the post...........Finishing a Grade 1 dirt race at 10 furlongs on the lead in under 24 seconds after facing pressure is unheard of and at this point when one looks at the big 4 3 yr old grade 1's ech won by a different animal Arrogate's win was by FAR the most dominating....and for the record I was at Big Red's Belmont but it doesnt give my thoughts on it any more value than someone who wasnt
Chuck Berger More than 1 year ago
Enzo, maybe it's a matter of semantics. When I said "nice",
I could have easily have said good. So, we can agree he was 
a good horse. We have to remember, for as long as I can remember, when Saratoga got sloppy and the track was sealed, it was lightening fast.
My commentary re: Arrogate was this was one race. We need to see more and in races where he just doesn't have things all his own way. 
Last year Frosted hooked Pharoah early in the Travers softening him just enough to get caught at the finish. My own thought prior to the race was that Baffert was too sharp a trainer to send a horse across the country unless the horse was the real deal. I bet 5 dollars to win on him just to have an interest in the race. 

Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
No . Another horse who has been winning op claimer races  versus 2 other opponents and trained by a miracle trainer will show up .all pumped up and run the race of his life . Why even bother to handicapp .
Enzo Lentini More than 1 year ago
sorry you lost your wager..Baffert LOSES 73% of the time
Martha Cantarini More than 1 year ago
Was wondering if he would have run that fast without the over girth strap flapping underneath him?
Joel Firsching More than 1 year ago
Isnt it awesome to let horses have their growth spurt?  Baffert doesnt start his well bred careers in april of their three year old season.  These two go first and second in the travers.  Is bob finally listening ?
TEDK215 More than 1 year ago
very impressive win by this colt but still  has much to prove. would love to see him run with CC!
Eddie Lazaro More than 1 year ago
If they both run that fast in BC, non of them will win. CC ran 2+min in PC,  closers will run them down and win, since both will be burned!
Bill More than 1 year ago
Little doubt about how impressive Arrogate was yesterday, but I need to see more before I get on that bandwagon. Flintshire is brilliant, but let's be honest, we haven't any really outstanding long distance male turf horses this year. He's both very good and very lucky. I was rooting for Cavorting, but thought she was dead in the water with that slow pace. Impressive today. Sad Lady Eli lost, but I was worried considering all that she has gone through that it could have turned out much worse & I gotta admit that I flinched when the jock went to the whip on her. Great performance after the serious illness and the huge layoff. She's back & she is going to be better the next time.
Mike More than 1 year ago
Another first class article by someone way overdue ti be admitted into Horse Racing's Hall of Fame. Thanks, Mike. Blessings. 
Ann Maree More than 1 year ago

Great analysis, Mike,

On Arrogate: For me, anyway, before I jump on making him the next "star", I want to see how long he stays healthy. He's already had a couple hiccups in his development, I believe he had some chips removed, along with whatever else he had going on early in the year, or even as a two year old (why didn't he have a start at 2?) This is always the question for the Unbridled's Song progeny. Of course I hope he stays healthy. Randy Moss brought this issue up in the NBC Travers broadcast on Saturday.

VICTOR More than 1 year ago
OK, he caught a CONCRETE track, and now he best ?  Donna Brothers didn't know the breeding..
 Paul LoDuca " Arrogate will be favored to win 2017 Ky Derby "'  (no U won't get YB from me )
Scott More than 1 year ago
Victor, Mike isn't saying he's the best.  He even says he needs to see it again before he's anointed.  All he's allowing for is that he might be the best and the Division is certainly becoming more convoluted with each passing race.  I agree with his assessment that Nyquist still holds the slimmest of leads over Exaggerator who is still second.  Arrogate has to run 2 more times and impress to have any chance of being the 3 year old champion.  I would love to see him meet up with Nyquist out West prior to the BCC and then see him in the BCC as well.  He doesn't have beat California Chrome or even Frosted in the BCC to win the top Divisional honors, but he'll have to have won his next race and then beat all the other 3 year olds in the BCC to have a chance in my opinion.
Darrell Anthony More than 1 year ago
Ky Derby is for three year old only, Arrogate will be a four year old by that time.  When people write such erroneous statements like that there is nothing that can be said.
Diana Levy More than 1 year ago
Paul LoDuca on the TVG telecast is actually the one who made that erroneous "prediction" lol