The hyped match race between Arrogate and California Chrome in the $US12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (1 1/8 miles) failed to materialise at Gulfstream Park on Saturday.
Arrogate was being eased towards the finish of the Pegasus World Cup. Photo: Gulfstream Park
Arrogate marginally started favourite ahead of California Chrome, however the race as a contest was over as the field came off the back stretch.
California CHROME had raced in fourth place with Arrogate on his inside to this point, Mike Smith sitting quietly on Arrogate as Victor Espinoza began to put his horse under a ride.
Arrogate eased out to make his challenge three wide before the home turn as California Chrome retreated and went clear into the home straight, coming home unchallenged to defeat Shaman Ghost by 4 3/4-lengths with Neolithic third.
Jockey Mike Smith summed it up many when he spoke to NBC.
“It was another incredible performance. I don’t mean to say this with respect to the other horses but I got to gear down in the closing stages,” Smith said.
“He’s got some turn of foot, some stride. You just need to let him stretch out
“I was able to use the first turn to our advantage and stayed on the rail like we imagined. When I looked down the back side I saw Victor begin to nudge his horse (California CHROME) along and I thought ‘maybe he aint there today’.
“He had me right where he wanted but CHROME just didn’t fire – it wasn’t his race today and believe me, that’s not the California Chrome I know.”
Arrogate had defeated California Chrome in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic and trainer Bob Baffert said he did have some concern mid-race.
“I’m so relieved – when he was trapped on the inside down the backside but when he made that move I thought if he keeps throwing in those gears – what a superior horse he is,” Baffert said.
“I feel bad for California CHROME – he just didn’t bring his game today so we didn’t get that match up.”
Baffert trained his first Grade I winner at Gulfstream Park and said the race revived a lot of memories.
“It’s great to be here – I never thought I’d be here in a 12 million race.”
Trainer Art Sherman said it was an off day for California CHROME which finished ninth in his final race start, the first time he had finished worse than sixth in 27 starts.
“He didn’t break sharp like he usually does. Down the backside he had no excuse, he settled in but he didn’t have the kick like he usually does – this is the first bad race he’s ever run for me,” Sherman said.
“We’ve had a great run and it’s been one hell of a journey. I congratulate Bab Baffert, that horse is a super nice horse, I can’t say enough about him.”
It was the first running of the Pegasus World Cup. The entry fee for the stakeholders race was $US1 million, the field open to four-year-olds and up, Arrogate earning $US7 million for the win.