Dubai World Cup: Arrogate has proved a fine investment, now is the time to cement the legacy
DUBAI // When trainer Bob Baffert was scouting for horses at the Keeneland September sale in 2014 he called Garrett O’Rourke, the head of the Juddmonte US operation, and told him that he had found a horse that would pay for them all.
It is Arrogate’s turn to fulfil that prediction when he lines up as the overwhelming favourite for the US$10 million (Dh36.7m) Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse on Saturday.
Arrogate arrived in Dubai last week as the highest-rated horse in the world.
Should he pick up the winner’s cheque of $6m he will become the highest-earning thoroughbred of all time after just eight starts.
It was in 2009 that the US trainer Bobby Frankel died of cancer. He trained horses in California for Prince Khalid Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and during his battle with the disease, the numbers of Abdullah’s Juddmonte runners dwindled from 60 to just 15.
Since then the mantle has fallen to Baffert, and Arrogate’s unbridled success so far has seen the power-packed roan colt amass prize-money in excess of $11m. That is not a bad piece of business given O’Rourke picked him up for $560,000.
■ Info guide: All you need to know about 2017 Dubai World Cup
■ Race times: Entry list and race times for 2017 Dubai World Cup
■ Five classic Dubai World Cup moments: By Terry Spargo
“I still have all my catalogues at home and we had three horses on our list that day, but Arrogate was first and we did not manage to buy the other two,” O’Rourke said.
“The whole purpose of why we started all of this in America was to find a dirt sire to join all of the good turf ones we have like Frankel and Kingman. What Arrogate has accomplished already he has more than paid for the operation.”
Arrogate probably has no more than three races left during his career, as after Saturday he will be given a rest in preparation for a repeat bid at the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar in November.
The World Cup was something of an afterthought by connections following Arrogate’s polished performance against reigning World Cup champion California Chrome in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November and his stroll in the Pegasus World Cup in January.
Despite this, jockey Mike Smith firmly believes the estimated 60,000 racegoers will witness something extraordinary.
Smith was at Meydan on Friday and the 51-year-old US Hall Of Fame rider underlined how many good horses he had ridden since he first took out a licence at the tender age of 16.
Smith has partnered 25 Breeders’ Cup winners, is one of the few American riders to have won a British Classic and has posted at least one win in all three legs of the Triple Crown.
None of the horses he has ridden quite compare to his four-year-old mount he competes on Saturday.
“Everything about Arrogate, I’m not too sure I have ever sat on one like this,” he said. “It is his disposition, his mechanics, the way he gets over the ground.
“At times you feel like you are running downhill instead of on level ground. He has done things that a horse at this stage of his career is not supposed to do and with the ease he seems to do it.
“These horses in the World Cup are extremely talented. He is going to have to bring his A-Game to this race to run big and win. If he does that I think you will see how special he really is.”
Despite Arrogate’s lofty reputation, horsemen from around the world have not flinched in taking him on.
The United States has won the World Cup 10 times since Cigar took the inaugural running in 1996. It is almost impossible to see the World Cup going elsewhere.
Grade 1 winners Gun Runner, Keen Ice and Hoppertunity, last year’s third and Arrogate’s stable companion, have all accompanied the favourite.
Neolithic, who was third to Arrogate in January and who has been part-bought from Starlight Racing by Qatar Racing, will complete the powerful US party.
The Japanese have come, too, in an effort to add to their solitary triumph by Victoire Pisa in 2011.
Last year’s UAE Derby winner Lani heads their challenge with his half brother Awardee, Gold Dream and Apollo Kentucky all in tow.
As ever, the indefatigable Saeed bin Suroor leads the UAE defence with the lightly-raced Move Up.
The four-year Godolphin colt made his first start on dirt in the Al Maktoum Challenge three weeks ago but is expected to improve past his conquerors — Long River, Special Fighter and Furia Cruzada, the only mare in the field, all of whom reoppose on Saturday.
Mubtaahij, Mike De Kock’s runner-up who was handed the widest draw of all on Wednesday, completes the field.
Bin Suroor has won the World Cup a record seven times and even managed to pull the rabbit out of the hat when outsider Prince Bishop downed favourite California Chrome two years ago.
Beating Arrogate would be an even bigger upset, but at least the master of Al Quoz has previous form.
“When horses come from America they have a big reputation and I have a lot of respect for them,” he said. “Some of our horses improve a lot and handle the dirt really well.
“I loved Prince Bishop from the start and when he ran second to African Story, who was my World Cup winner in 2014, that was when I was confident in running Prince Bishop in the World Cup.
“Move Up is the horse I think can do it. He is by Dubawi so he can run on both turf and dirt. The way he looks, he has improved a lot since his last run. I am really happy with him.”
All week Baffert has been smooth-talking and wise-cracking at morning trackwork but for the first time Lord Grimthorpe, the Juddmonte director in England, came to watch the big-race favourite limber up on Friday.
“This is the reason we come into this sport — these are the great moments,” he said. “To see him looking so good and to see him standing there with that sort of look of eagles — isn’t this exciting? It really is.”
Arrogate has never travelled out of the United States before now. He has never faced horses from multiple countries and has never broken from a gate without the drug Lasix coursing through his veins. This is his moment to prove he really is the best in the world and pay back the faith of those around him. His time has come.
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE
Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheNationalSport
Updated: March 24, 2017 04:00 AM