Arrogate (far): back in action at Santa Anita ahead of Pegasus WC tilt
PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
By NICHOLAS GODFREY 6:00pM 31 DEC 2016
Preview: USA, Sunday 12 midnight GMT
Santa Anita: San Pasqual Stakes (Grade 2) 1m1/2f, dirt, 4yo+
AFTER California Chrome’s easy victory at Los Alamitos, his Breeders’ Cup Classic conqueror Arrogate (Bob Baffert/Mike Smith) faces what looks a slightly more tricky assignment on Sunday at Santa Anita.
The Juddmonte superstar has his prep run for his Pegasus World Cup rematch with California Chrome in the San Pasqual Stakes, a potential ‘banana skin’ of a Grade 2 contest four weeks before what will be the world’s richest race at Gulfstream Park on January 28.
Not only is the 1m1/2f distance a wee bit on the short side for Arrogate but he faces four rivals, all of whom have previous graded-stakes victories to their name, including Grade 1 victor Midnight Storm.
‘The rain has me a little bit worried’
Bob Baffert, who gave Arrogate the go-ahead to run after a fast work at Santa Anita on Tuesday, admitted to concerns about forecast rain disrupting his training regimen. “He went really well Tuesday, really easy,” he said. “The rain has me a little bit worried, but I didn’t want to be waiting too long to put a race into him.
“The San Pasqual will be his hard work. From here on out with the rain, things are going to be spotty, so you’ve got to go. I want to get a race into him, but it’s not going to be easy. There are some nice horses in there.”
Even so, after five consecutive victories including a blistering Travers Stakes before the Classic, Arrogate – drawn on the outside of a five-runner field – will justifiably start a long odds-on favourite for the $ 200,000 event, won 12 months ago by his arch-rival California Chrome.
Chief opponent on New Year’s Day is likely to be Midnight Storm (Phil d’Amato/Rafael Bejarano), who is better known as a turf performer. He won the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile here in June and was third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile before switching to the main dirt track at Del Mar for a near-eight-length score in Grade 3 company.
Also lining up is Los Alamitos Derby winner Accelerate (John Sadler/Tyler Baze), third last time out in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.