Abject Arrogate flops at 1-20 as Accelerate steals the show
Report: USA, Saturday
Del Mar: San Diego Hcap (Grade 2) 1m½f | dirt | 3yo+
From the astonishing to the abysmal. In a drab performance that offered not the merest glimmer of his sensational display at the Dubai World Cup, Arrogate could beat only one home as a 1-20 shot in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap, won in stunning runaway fashion by all-the-way scorer Accelerate (John Sadler/Victor Espinoza).
The world's top-rated racehorse, who became the biggest prize-money earner in the history of the sport in Dubai, was running for the first time since that unforgettable last-to-first triumph at Meydan.
However, what was meant as nothing more than a straightforward prep run for the $1 million Pacific Classic on August 19 turned into a disaster when the Juddmonte four-year-old trailed home in an abject showing.
Even though he was conceding 8lb and more to his rivals over a trip short of his optimum, Arrogate still had plenty in hand according to both official ratings and Racing Post Ratings. The world champion trailed the field about five lengths off the pace in the early stages before being asked to move up on the far turn, where he passed one horse – and that was El Huerfano, whose rider had lost his irons after the horse stumbled at the start.
A short-lived effort petered out soon after they entered the stretch and Arrogate emptied, duly experiencing the first defeat since his career debut in April last year as he finished more than 15 lengths behind the winner.
It was a result to rank alongside some of the most notorious shocks in US racing history, such as Man O' War's sole defeat by Upset, Secretariat's Whitney loss to Onion or American Pharoah going down to Keen Ice in the Travers. They were all at Saratoga, known as the 'Graveyard of Champions', but Del Mar has some 'previous' as well, Cigar's celebrated winning streak having been ended by 40-1 shot Dare And Go in the Pacific Classic in 1996.
"I'm at a loss for words," said Arrogate's jockey Mike Smith. "He was just flat, so flat. We were going around there okay and then I took him outside like I did in Dubai but he just didn't pick it up.
"So I dropped him inside again and cut the corner, then wheeled him outside once more, and tried to get something from him. But he was just flat. He wasn't trying. So I just wrapped up on him and got him home safe. We've got to go back and start over again. Get it back right."
Baffert could offer nothing more concrete. "I think he was just flat," he said. "I knew coming down here can be tough. Mike said he was just flat and never in the race did he feel he had any horse. I thought he’d run better than that, but he just didn’t want to go. I think he just laid an egg."
The winner Accelerate had not won since taking the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Derby in September; though the four-year-old was getting 9lb from Arrogate, his best pre-race RPR was 23lb adrift of the favourite.
Sent off nearly an 8-1 shot, he made every yard before storming away in the final furlong to win by eight and a half lengths from 25-1 chance Donworth, with Arrogate's stablemate Cat Burglar taking third. Accelerate stopped the clock in 1m42.15s.
"A little bit surprised by how many lengths I win," said Victor Espinoza. "I'm not surprised I win. I was here to win."
Trainer John Sadler added: "You want to win. You don't want to concede anything, but I'm surprised we won, because Arrogate is the best horse in the world. A couple of things went right for us and one of them was Arrogate didn't fire his best. That's what has to happen for these big upsets."
Bridge jumpers out in force
Almost as remarkable as the race itself was the tote board. The 'bridge jumpers' piled in as Arrogate drew $1,320,483m of the $1,402,055 bet to show (finish in the first three) – which is why they call them 'bridge jumpers', because they might well feel like jumping off a bridge if their horse is not placed. Because of the money on Arrogate, the placed horses paid huge dividends: for a $2 stake, Accelerate paid $32.60 to place and $22 to show; second-placed Donworth paid $119.80 to place and $67.40 to show, while Cat Burglar paid $38.20 to show.
Of the $2,671,938 bet in the win-place-show pools, 92 per cent ($2,457,472) was wagered on Arrogate.
Also on Saturday
Saratoga: Diana Stakes (Grade 1) 1m1f | turf | 3yo+ f/m
Lady Eli (Chad Brown/Irad Ortiz) landed her fifth top-level triumph as she ran down Quidura in the final strides to claim the first Grade 1 event of the Saratoga summer by a head.
The popular five-year-old, who overcame life-threatening laminitis before returning to the track last year after a 13-month layoff, had to survive a stewards' inquiry after leaning into the runner-up in the stretch drive.
Lady Eli now boasts a career record of nine wins and three seconds from 12 starts; sent off a shade of odds on, she was giving 8lb to Quidura.
"Today was one of her greatest races to date, maybe her best," said trainer Chad Brown said. "Giving 8lb to the horse she ran down late in the stretch after breaking through the gate, going a little wide, she just overcame everything. Today she proved she's one of the all-time greats."
Winning rider Irad Ortiz was completing a four-timer also including the victory of Firenze Fire (Jason Servis) in the Grade 3 Sanford for two-year-olds.