Welcome to another edition of America’s Best Racing’s Main Track.
Each Tuesday in this space we spotlight the most meaningful story of the past week, detailing a story that stands out because of its importance or perhaps the emotional response it generates.
Looking ahead, if you believe there’s a story this week that should be featured in next Tuesday’s edition of the Main Track, let us know by tweeting it to @ABRLive using the hashtag #ABRMainTrack.
Not that it really needed it, but the drama woven into the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic was stoked even more by last week’s news that the Nov. 4 blockbuster at Del Mar will mark the final start of North America’s all-time leading earner.
On one level, the news that Arrogate’s career will end before making a return trip to the Pegasus World Cup wasn’t that much of a surprise. As far back as January, prior to the initial Pegasus, Juddmonte Farms Manager Garrett O’Rourke told Thoroughbred Racing Commentary, “Our crystal ball has an expiration date of November 2017. He will stand at stud at 2018, but, before discussing next year’s Pegasus, let’s get to the Breeders’ Cup first. That’s traditionally the end.”
O’Rourke also said Juddmonte believes in giving new sires plenty of time to acclimate to a life at stud, further explaining why there will be only one more chance to watch Arrogate run – and one final chance to see where he rates among the sport’s all-time greats.
After Arrogate’s incredible last-to-first victory in the Dubai World Cup – which gave the 4-year-old an astonishing four-race stretch that featured wins in the Travers, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Pegasus World Cup and Dubai World Cup – there were some comparisons with Secretariat and Man o’War.
Then Arrogate finished an unfathomable fourth in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar. He was supposed to atone in the Pacific Classic, but again came up short. After looking as listless on the final turn as he did in the San Diego, Arrogate came to life in the stretch and launched a late bid that left him a half-length behind stablemate Collected in the mile-and-a-quarter stakes.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has a little more than two months to work the same magic that propelled both American Pharoah and Arrogate to victory in the BC Classic off similar rest.
If he does, it will surely be interesting be see what impact that last glimpse of Arrogate has on his legacy. Will it be enough to put him on the same pedestal as Triple Crown winners and some of the sport’s greatest?
It probably will. What Arrogate did in his last four wins is a feat that may not be duplicated for many years to come, and to see him return to top form will push those last two losses into the background.
Yet if he loses, and ends his career with three straight losses, it will be hard to compare him with Secretariat or even American Pharoah, both of whom ended their careers with victorious efforts that were reminders of their greatest wins.
So now, aside from a spectacular showdown involving Arrogate, Gun Runner, the No. 1 horse in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association poll, Collected, and Baffert’s Travers winner West Coast, there will be race within the race at the Breeders’ Cup.
It will be Arrogate’s final race for greatness.
If there’s a reason to make Nov. 4 an even more eagerly awaited day, it doesn’t get much better than that.
The Also-Eligible List
Here are some of the other stories that made for a lively week in the U.S. Thoroughbred racing industry: