'The single best performance I've seen' – Baffert hails world champ Arrogate

Dubai World Cup hero Arrogate is world champion for the second year in a row
Dubai World Cup hero Arrogate is world champion for the second year in a rowCredit: Edward Whitaker

Bob Baffert hailed Arrogate's stunning last-to-first success in the Dubai World Cup as the single-best performance he has seen after the horse was crowned Longines World's Best Racehorse with a rating of 134 for the second year in a row.

The award of the prize to Arrogate – ahead of Aussie wondermare Winx (132) – was not without some controversy, as he failed to win again after Dubai, losing on three occasions and being beaten by an aggregate of over 22 lengths.

But, despite what the title may imply, the award is decided on the best one-off performance rather than cumulative achievement and Baffert was in no doubt that Arrogate produced something special in Dubai.

"I don't think I'll ever witness a race like it again," said Baffert of Arrogate's extraordinary success at Meydan, where he overcame a slow start to power home two and a quarter lengths in front of subsequent Breeders' Cup Classic winner Gun Runner, who was joint-third highest-rated with Cracksman on 130.

"Watching the replay got me a little emotional – he just showed so much heart and determination to win. It was off the chart.

"That was the single best performance I have ever seen. That was incredible."

Such was the effort Arrogate exerted in the Dubai World Cup that Baffert believes the race left a lasting toll on a star who had won all bar one of his previous outings, racking up impressive wins in the 2016 Breeders' Cup Classic and the inaugural Pegasus World Cup, the world's richest race.

Speaking from Claridge's in London, where the Longines World's Best Racehorse and World's Best Horserace ceremony was staged, Baffert said: "To me he looked good in the morning but he just didn't want to perform. After that first race back [in the San Diego Handicap] we were thinking of retiring him as that was such an awful performance.

"It really hurt not to see him come back to that [high level] – he didn't even come close to it. To this day people still say to me, 'what the hell happened!' But there was nothing obvious, he just didn't want to know."

The world's top ten in 2017

1st: Arrogate 134
2nd: Winx 132
3rd: Cracksman, Gun Runner 130
5th: Enable 128
6th: Ulysses 126
7th: Cloth Of Stars, Harry Angel 125
9th: Collected, Kitasan Black, Ribchester 124

It is the third year in a row that Baffert has been responsible for the World's Best Racehorse, with US Triple Crown hero American Pharoah taking the 2015 prize, also with a rating of 134.

No horse since the imperious Frankel has posted a rating higher than that achieved by Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup.

Ratings explained

Explaining how Arrogate topped the standings despite his form tailing off so spectacularly, BHA head of handicapping Phil Smith, speaking in his role as co-chairman of the Longines World’s Best Racehorse rankings committee, said: "Our job is to look at the best sustainable performance over the whole year. We ask if the form of a race can be supported and substantiated by the prior and subsequent performances of the winner and/or placed horses.

"With Arrogate, his Pegasus World Cup win nearly replicates his Dubai World Cup performance. The form of the placed horses in both races is also rock-solid. Arrogate totally lost the plot after Dubai and didn't replicate the form but the placed horses did.

"Arrogate absolutely wouldn't win if he now had to concede 4lb to Gun Runner but what we've produced isn't a handicap.

"If Arrogate was still in training he would clearly be rated lower but that doesn't denigrate his performance in Dubai, which was stunning. What we are talking about here is a classification of performances from January 1 to December 31."

Wondermare Winx

For the second year in a row Winx was named the leading mare and top turf performer in the world, once again achieving a figure of 132.

Winx – who won all nine of her starts in 2017 – is on a winning streak of 22 and has a rating to match that of the legendary Black Caviar. She put up her best performance with a seven-and-a-quarter-length victory in the George Ryder Stakes in March.

Her owners would once again not be drawn on whether she would follow Black Caviar's lead and strut her stuff at Royal Ascot in June.

Cracksman, a hugely impressive seven-length winner of the Champion Stakes on his final start of the campaign, was the highest-rated European horse, earning a rating of 130 for his destructive performance on Champions Day.

However, Enable, also trained by John Gosden, would come out marginally ahead on adjusted ratings were the pair to meet courtesy of the 3lb fillies' allowance she would receive.

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Tony McFadden
Published on 23 January 2018Last updated 18:35, 23 January 2018