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California Chrome had his prep for the Pegasus World Cup Invitational on Dec. 17 at Los Alamitos Race Course. Now it's Arrogate's turn across town.
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Juddmonte Farms' gray colt, who upended California Chrome's undefeated season Nov. 5 in the Breeders' Cup Classic, is scheduled to return to Santa Anita Park’s main track in the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes on Jan. 1, with hopes to use the race as a springboard toward the Jan. 28 Pegasus World Cup.
"I want to get a race into him, but it's not going to be easy. There are some nice horses in there."
The field is short, with only five horses entered for the 1 1/16-mile, Grade 2 test, but all have graded stakes victories to their credit.
The main threat to Arrogate figures to be A Venneri Racing and Little Red Feather Racing's Midnight Storm. A five-time graded stakes winner on turf – including a top-level score in the June 4 Shoemaker Mile – the speedy 6-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile encouraged trainer Phil D'Amato with a dominant main-track victory last-time out in the Native Diver Stakes at Del Mar on Nov. 27, which followed a third-place run – defeated by only two lengths – in the Breeders' Cup Mile.
"We always thought, in the back of our minds, that he was just as good on the dirt as he was on the grass," D'Amato said of Midnight Storm, whose only other stakes start on dirt was a last-place run in the 2015 Pacific Classic. "In the Pacific Classic, he got hooked in a speed duel and it just wasn't a good gauge of durability, but the horse he was back then and the horse he is now are two different horses.
"He's bigger, stronger, more mature, and his confidence level is sky-high right now. It's a good time to get a good gauge on where we're at."
On his prospects of defeating Arrogate, however, D'Amato is somewhat tepid and acknowledged the difficulty of the task at hand.
"In my opinion, beating ‘Chrome’ makes Arrogate a leading Horse of the Year candidate, so you've got to look at it like you're running against the best horse in the country, " D'Amato said. "My horse couldn't be training any better and I'm looking forward to running against him and seeing where we're at."
The other entrants in the field include Hronis Racing's Accelerate, the Los Alamitos Derby winner who finished third in the Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile last time out; Affirmed Stakes victor Dalmore, who is winless in his last three starts, all at different racetracks, but has won his last three races at Santa Anita; and Prospect Park, who enters the San Pasqual hoping to earn his first win since the La Jolla Handicap in August of 2015.
(Editor's note: Arrogate was scratched from the San Pasqual early on Jan. 1 due to the wet track conditions at Santa Anita following two days of rain. Bob Baffert said the colt will train up to the Pegasus World Cup on Jan. 28.)