World Class: Classic hero Arrogate is a legend in the making

Arrogate got the better of a stunning duel with California Chrome

PICTURE: Edward Whitaker ( Classic hero Arrogate
a legend in the making By Sam Walker 1:00PM 9 NOV 2016

VICTOR ESPINOZA shouldn't beat himself up over California Chrome's defeat. He was looking for excuses after the great horse suffered his first loss of the season in the Breeders' Cup Classic, but the excuse is simple: he was beaten by another great horse.

Sure, the losing rider might have increased the tempo at halfway or started his run sooner, but the fact is the run he got from California Chrome would have been good enough to win nine of the last ten Classics. It's hard to account for Arrogate being even better.

In the end both horses produced career-best performances. Arrogate ran to an RPR of 136, which should see him crowned world champion at the end of the year, while California Chrome ran to 135, which puts him in a clear second on the world list.

Both horses had hinted at this level of ability in their previous wide-margin wins, but they needed this opportunity to meet on the track to draw the very best from each other. On Saturday they seized their chance, pulling ten and three-quarter lengths clear of the field.

The first seven in the Classic were all Grade 1 winners but the big two proved in a different league entirely. Indeed, from a ratings point of view, the gap between the first two and the rest equates to more than 20lb.

California Chrome was always happy in the lead, travelling comfortably at a pace which had all his rivals, including the winner at times, struggling to keep up. As they turned for home the horse who has looked unstoppable all year looked set to win again.

But there was still one other with a shot at glory. Arrogate, who broke the clock and ripped up the form book in the Travers Stakes, was close enough to strike. But could he really run down California Chrome?

The truth is not even the winner's trainer thought he could, but the youngster kept plugging away and closing the gap until in the final strides he proved a jubilant Bob Baffert wrong by winning one of the great runnings of America's championship race.

Arrogate's jockey Mike Smith judged the pace perfectly and made good use of his long-striding colt's stamina to grab a late victory over the people's champion.

How good could he be?

The winner's last two victories have the hallmarks of a legend in the making and, being relatively lightly raced, it's hard to gauge just how good he might become.

He is a rangy colt with very few miles on the clock and he could well improve again next season, much like dual world champion Frankel did when he turned four. Frankel remains the highest-rated horse in the history of RPRs (since 1988) with a mark of 143 but this win puts Arrogate into the top ten.

Baffert's star is likely to excel over 1m2f next term, with the Santa Anita Handicap, Pacific Classic and Breeders' Cup Classic probably on the agenda.

He is probably at his best over longer distances but there's a good chance he will have so much in hand of his rivals once California Chrome retires he will be able to win over shorter trips.

Legendary Chrome can win at Gulfstream

As for California Chrome, he heads next to the $12 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park in January when connections will aim to conclude his rags-to-riches destiny by securing the title of the highest-earning racehorse of all time.

In a way Espinoza was correct to question what might have been on Saturday, since there would have been circumstances under which his mount might have held on for a famous victory.

But he should take comfort from the fact that California Chrome is far bigger than just one race. He is the most popular horse in the US and has proved so magnificent on the track this season that he has finally managed to shake off the stigma over his weak pedigree.

When he retires to stud next year it will not be as the bargain buy who has outrun his breeding. It will be as one of the greatest, most consistent and popular horses on earth. And, quite possibly, the richest.

The Pegasus World Cup will be run over the shorter distance of 1m1f, so whether Arrogate shows up or not California Chrome should go off favourite to set his name in history.

Reel didn't need to improve

Earlier in the evening on Saturday there was a wonderful display of control and confidence from Seamie Heffernan, who won the Breeders' Cup Turf aboard the King George hero Highland Reel.

Heffernan was allowed to set steady fractions to halfway before bursting clear of the field on the back straight. He still held a seven-length lead turning in and the horse kept up the gallop to score by a length and a quarter from the staying-on Flintshire (118).

Highland Reel ran in line with his King George winning RPR of 121. Found plugged on late for third but was below her best, running to an RPR of 112.


Name (country trained)RaceRating
1Arrogate (US)Breeders' Cup Classic136D
2California Chrome (US)Breeders' Cup Classic135D
3Frosted (US)Metropolitan Handicap130D
Winx (AUS)Cox Plate130T
5Almanzor (Fr)Champion Stakes129T
6A Shin Hikari (Jpn)Prix d'Ispahan127T
7A.P. Indian (US)Forego Stakes126D
Limato (GB)Prix de la Foret126T
Postponed (GB)Sheema Classic/Coronation Cup126T
10Aerovelocity (HK)Centenary Sprint Cup125T
Fascinating Rock (Ire)Tattersalls Gold Cup125T
Mecca's Angel (GB)Nunthorpe Stakes125T


Name (country trained)RaceRating
1Winx (AUS)Cox Plate130
2Almanzor (Fr)Champion Stakes129
3A Shin Hikari (Jpn)Prix d'Ispahan127
4LimatoPrix de la Foret126
Postponed (GB)Sheema Classic/Coronation Cup126
6Aerovelocity (HK)Centenary Sprint Cup125
Fascinating Rock (Ire)Tattersalls Gold Cup125
Limato (GB)Darley July Cup125
Mecca's Angel (GB)Nunthorpe Stakes125
10Chautauqua (Aus)Black Caviar Lightning124
Found (Ire)Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe124
Galileo Gold (GB)St James's Palace Stakes124
Harzand (Ire)Derby124
Highland Reel (Ire)Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe124
Terravista (Aus)Black Caviar Lightning124
The Gurkha (Ire)Sussex Stakes124
Time Test (GB)Brigadier Gerard124


Name (country trained)RaceRating
1Arrogate (US)Breeders' Cup Classic136
2California Chrome (US)Breeders' Cup Classic135
3Frosted (US)Metropolitan Handicap130
4A.P. IndianForego Stakes126
5Nyquist (US)Kentucky Derby124
Songbird (US)Cotillion124
7Dortmund (US)San Diego Handicap123
Exaggerator (US)Haskell Invitational123
9Effinex (US)Oaklawn Handicap122
10Lord Nelson (US)Santa Anita Sprint122

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