Breeders' Cup Classic winner Arrogate came out of the race in good condition, trainer Bob Baffert said Nov. 6, the morning after the climactic end to the World Championships.
"Who'd have thought I'd have another horse like American Pharoah?" Baffert said of Arrogate, who passed favored California Chrome in the final strides to win the 1 1/4-mile Classic at Santa Anita Park. "He's doing some of the same things that Pharoah did."
Baffert related a key moment in the race turning into the stretch, when jockey Mike Smith – who targeted cruising leader California Chrome from third place, directly behind Melatonin – won a cat-and-mouse game with Victor Espinoza, who rode the 2014 Horse of the Year.
Anticipating a challenge, Espinoza looked to his left, then right, and back again just as Smith took Arrogate to the outside.
"Mike said that when he went outside, he could hear Victor say 'Damn it,'" Baffert said. "Then, when Mike went to the right hand [whip], Arrogate got on his right lead and took off like a rocket."
While expressing the utmost respect for trainer Art Sherman and the California Chrome crew, Baffert and assistant Jimmy Barnes did point out that three of California Chrome's last five losses came to Baffert-trained horses. Bayern administered back-to-back defeats in the 2014 Pennsylvania Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic, and then Arrogate added a third loss to California Chrome’s impressive résumé on Saturday.
"[Arrogate] wasn't even blowing when he came back. It was like 'When are we going to do this again?'" Baffert said.
Racing fans worldwide would like to know the answer to that question. Only time will tell. Arrogate’s connections indicated in post-race interviews an inclination to run the Unbridled's Song colt in 2017, if all goes well.
Regarding Hoppertunity, who finished fourth in the Classic behind Keen Ice, Baffert said the son of Any Given Saturday is best suited for racetracks outside of California.
"He ran a good race, but he struggles over these California tracks," the Hall of Fame trainer said. "He needs a deeper, softer track. [Jockey] John Velazquez said he was like a different horse from the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park."
Baffert said Hoppertunity remains a candidate for the Pegasus World Cup and Dubai World Cup next year.
Drefong, who provided Baffert with his 13th Breeders' Cup victory in the TwinSpires.com Sprint, six races before Arrogate put the icing on the cake with number 14, looked like a winner before setting foot on the track.
"I don't usually bet on my Breeders' Cup horses, but I bet on Drefong after I saw him in the paddock," Baffert said.
A decision on what's next for Drefong also will be determined in the coming days.
Trainer David Hofmans said fifth-place Classic finisher Melatonin was sore but otherwise healthy a day after the race.
"He's a little stiff and muscle sore all over from running so hard after being off for so long," Hofmans said. "But nothing more than you'd expect. I thought he ran a good race to about the quarter pole and then he got really tired."
Godolphin Stable retired sixth-place Classic finisher Frosted on Nov. 7. The Met Mile and Whitney Stakes winner will begin his stud career next year at Darley's Jonabell Farm in Lexington,, Ky.