Martin Garcia’s comments on June 24, even though they were clearly a playful jab at his Hall of Fame boss, were considered by many as blasphemy.
After Collected’s 14-length romp in the 1 1/16-mile, Grade 3 Precisionist Stakes at Santa Anita Park, the jockey and top exercise for trainer Bob Baffert spoke to the City Zip colt’s potential to run 1 1/4 miles.
“I think he can go a mile and a quarter, but I don’t think [Baffert] wants me to, because he might beat Arrogate,” Garcia said with a wide smile in the Santa Anita winner’s circle.
The final furlong of the 1 ¼-mile Classic was a battle of the stablemates. Arrogate, the 3-5 favorite, stalked the pace set by Collected in third through most of the race. Accelerate, who upset the gray or roan champion last time out in the Grade 2 TVG San Diego Handicap, was between them.
Collected put away Accelerate at the top of the lane, however, and Arrogate appeared all in under jockey Mike Smith. Arrogate kicked in late, as he’s done plenty in the past, but he could not get past the determined Collected and Garcia, who celebrated the victory with an impassioned fist pump at the finish line.
The final time was 2:00.70 and the margin was a half-length.
After Collected set quarter-mile fractions of :23.76, :47.19, and 1:11.06, while he maintained a half-length lead over Accelerate, Garcia said he felt Arrogate’s presence in the final stages.
“I could feel a big animal coming behind me,” Garcia said with a laugh. “[It was like] when you are in a little car and you can feel a big car coming. I could feel it, and I was praying I could hit the wire first.”
Smith kept heavily favored Arrogate engaged from the time the gate opened to the finish line. He asked Arrogate at the start to get him into position, continued to encourage him with his hands the first time through the stretch and on the backstretch.
On the backstretch, it appeared as if a repeat of Arrogate’s off-the-board San Diego result might be in order, as Collected and Accelerate began to kick away, but Smith kept working. As the distance increased, Arrogate strengthened, but he still had 2 1/2 lengths to make up with a furlong to run, and could not close the deficit entirely.
“If he just improves a little bit, we’ll be all right,” Smith said. “He was a lot better today than last time — just not good enough.”
“Arrogate — at least he tried today,” Baffert said. “He’s getting there, but I think that when I ran him in the San Diego it messed up his psyche a little bit. I don’t think I have a problem bringing him back in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. But he’s got to be fresh, just like Collected came in here fresh. And Collected is a very good horse.”
For Speedway Stable owner Peter Fluor, winning the Pacific Classic was sweet enough, but knowing Arrogate fired made it a bit sweeter.
“If you ask for a dream trip, it was that Collected wins and Arrogate shows up,” Flour said. “I told Bob before the race, ‘I hope you run 1-2, but I have a preference.’ ”
When asked after the race whether he felt Arrogate was still the best horse in the world, however, Baffert did not hesitate.
“I still think he is. ... I was really proud of Arrogate. At the end he was laying it down,” Baffert said.
Accelerate held third, 3 3/4 lengths behind Arrogate, and was another 6 1/2 lengths clear of fourth-place finisher Curlin Road. Hard Aces, Royal Albert Hall, and Donworth completed the order of finish.
With his first grade 1 win, Collected now has more than $1.2 million in earnings to go along with his eight wins from 11 starts. He’s undefeated in four starts in 2017, including previous stakes scores in the Santana Mile, Grade 2 Californian, and the Precisionist.
While Baffert left the door open for Collected to run in a race between the Pacific Classic and the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the trainer indicated Arrogate would train up to the Breeders’ Cup, which is back at Del Mar in early November.
Hunt Holds Off Itsinthepost to Win Del Mar Handicap
Michael House’s Irish-bred Hunt, victorious in the 1 1/8-mile, Grade 2 Eddie Read Stakes a month ago, confirmed his quality on Aug. 19 in the $250,000, Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap Presented by The Japan Racing Association at Del Mar.
Perfectly placed by jockey Flavien Prat in fourth as longshot Mr. Roary showed the field of 13 through the early stages of the 1 3/8-mile turf contest, Hunt tracked slow quarter-mile fractions of :24.40, :49.40, 1:14.88, and 1:39.09 for a mile before he darted between horses in upper stretch to take command.
“The slow pace helped us; he liked that, coming from the shorter race,” Prat said. “We were close up, too. He likes to be among horses; covered up. I followed Gary [Stevens on co-second choice Ashleyluvssugar] through the hole [at the top of the stretch], then dropped down. He had it from there.”
“It was a masterful ride,” trainer Phil D’Amato said. “Flavien just bided his time, let the race develop a little, found a seam on the inside, and turned him loose. He got it done.”
“He was way the best horse; way the best,” Baze said of Itsinthepost’s narrow loss. “I had to wait, wait, wait on the turn. If I could have gotten him out, we would have come running.”
The Del Mar Handicap is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” race for the $4 million Longines Breeders' Cup Turf, and the victory guaranteed 5-year-old Hunt an automatic berth in the Nov. 4 race at Del Mar.
Hunt finished the Del Mar Handicap distance in 2:14.93 and returned $8.80, $4.60, and $3.60 across the board.