It’s a story roughly as old as man— David and Goliath. The giant, and the giant slayer. As I am certain you know, in the traditional telling of this story, the gargantuan Goliath is slain by the mortal, David. In the sport of Horse Racing, we often look for Davids in every field — ones that seem to stack up well enough to challenge, and possibly overcome, the giants of their generations.
In today’s racing, there is no giant greater, stronger, and more dominant than Arrogate.
The massive son of Unbridled’s Song has been unstoppable since breaking his maiden in his second start, and has since amassed G1 victories in the Travers Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Pegasus World Cup, and most recently, the Dubai World Cup — winning more than $17,000,000 in one racing season.
He has shattered track records and set some of the highest consecutive Beyer Speed Figures since Ghostzapper, doing so with an ease so great, we cannot help but wonder who will ever beat “Big Blue”, as his team calls him.
As a lifelong fan of Horse Racing, it is difficult for me to fathom a defeat for Arrogate, but as you know, in this sport, any variable can change the outcome of a race. Therefore, ANY horse, even Bob Baffert’s prized champion, who he says is “The best horse I’ve ever seen,” can be vulnerable at times.
Let’s take a look at the two horses which I consider to be the best handicap males in the country, at classic distances, when taking Arrogate out of the equation.
He’s the hardest-trying horse in the handicap division. He has never, not once, run a bad race. He is a son of Candy Ride, and was very nearly a Dubai World Cup winner, had it not been for one, very large, very fast gray horse. Gun Runner is my second-favorite Thoroughbred in America. He has competed at the highest level for nearly two seasons, and has proven to be competitive, gritty, and unyielding in nearly all conditions.
While he has finished behind Arrogate in every meeting, there is no disguising the fact that the little chestnut horse is getting better all the time. He picked up his second G1 win over the weekend in the Stephen Foster, after going off the heavy favorite, and deservedly so. He ran like an absolute machine, and has at times been working with a silver workmate.
His trainer, Steve Assmussen laughs and says, “We are teaching him how to beat a gray horse.”
Make no mistakes, their sole goal this season, is to take another shot at Arrogate, and this time, bring him down.
While I could praise Gun Runner all day long, I promised to tell you about TWO horses who will boldly take a shot at the champion this year, and so let’s discuss the best colt in Chad Brown’s barn. He’s a son of Curlin, and he’s a monster. His name is Connect, and while he is lightly-raced, he has connected the dots quickly enough to put him near the top of his game. He is a big, strong 4yo who has tackled the now G1 PA Derby, the G1 Cigar Mile against older horses, and most recently, he transformed his 2017 debut into a walk over, winning under wraps while snagging a 107 Beyer Speed Figure.
This horse would be the Arrogate of his generation, if Arrogate wasn’t the Arrogate of his generation. As Curlin’s are like fine wine, getting better with each passing year, it is likely we will see Connect in training beyond this season, and in that case, expect him to dominate horse racing, after Arrogate rides off into the sunset, with the $250,000 stud fee he will likely command.
All of the above being said, let’s get to the main point here. The whole reason for this discussion was to tell you which of them I think can defeat Arrogate before his racing career comes to a close. My answer, to this long debated question is… NEITHER. Neither, because it is highly unlikely to me that any horse, on this planet, or any other planet, possesses more speed or stamina.
The only horse who can beat Arrogate, is Arrogate himself…
Even that scenario, is unlikely. We all remember how badly he messed things up for himself in Dubai, and despite being twenty lengths back after not breaking from the gate… despite soft fractions throughout, the “Big A”s massive stride, aided by a masterful Mike Smith, still carried him home to win.
I am running out of reasons to believe there is any circumstance, despite a tragic one, which God-willing will never come to be, in which Arrogate will be defeated. While horseplayers everywhere will continue to try to beat him at 1/9, I will be standing at the rail, tears in my eyes, taking in every moment he has left on a racetrack. We get very few Arrogates in a lifetime. Rather than try to beat him, I think I will wear my ARROG.O.A.T. tee-shirt, paint my fingernails pink, green, and gray, and capture every stride he takes in memory…
Because even photographs don’t compare to being able to say, “I was there when the mighty Connect— the great Gun Runner— TRIED to defeat the even greater Arrogate.”
If you liked this, check out Nicole’s video “Arrogate is NOT California Chrome”…