Gun Runner shoots to victory as Arrogate fails to fire again
There was no glorious swansong for Arrogate on the final start of his career as he again fell short of the levels that had seen him compared to some of the greats in finishing a toiling fifth in a Classic won from the front by his big rival Gun Runner.
A sluggish start in which he dived to his left put him at an immediate disadvantage and jockey Mike Smith could never quite catch up as the Steve Asmussen-trained Gun Runner delivered an emphatic riposte to the horse who had humbled him in the Dubai World Cup in March.
Instead Arrogate's trainer Bob Baffert, bidding for his fourth successive win in the Classic, had to settle for a second from Collected, who pushed Gun Runner all the way, and a third from West Coast.
But the trainer of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah would have much preferred one last hurrah from the Juddmonte colt, and best horse in the world on official rankings, who he had likened to Secretariat after he had circled the field to win at Meydan in March.
Arrogate had mastered California Chrome in the race 12 months earlier and won the inaugural Pegasus World Cup before Dubai but had been beaten in both starts since his trip to the Middle East, also at Del Mar.
"When he goes around these turns he loses momentum. He's so much better than that," Baffert said after Arrogate finished six and a a quarter lengths behind Gun Runner.
"He is one of the greatest horses I've ever trained, I'm disappointed to see him go out like that."
Smith said: "He broke very awkward and just doesn't seem to get hold of this racetrack."
Arrogate's third successive failure overshadowed a blistering display from Gun Runner who, under Florent Geroux, was not asked to hold back despite not having won over further than 1m1f.
They led from the gate, were pressed all the way by Martin Garcia on Collected, but were never headed as they romped to a two and a quarter lengths victory in the $6 million race that drew shrieks of joy from Asmussen.
Geroux said: "He's just a beast."
Asmussen, who won the Classic a decade ago with Curlin, said: "I can't tell you how proud I am of Gun Runner. What a stage for him to show he's the best."
European hope Churchill, trying dirt for the first time, broke well enough but suffered the same fate as every other son of Galileo to try the surface, not one of which has made the frame.
The 2,000 Guineas winner started well but gradually fell away as the pace got too much, crossing the line in seventh, 30 lengths adrift of the winner.
Aidan O'Brien said: "Obviously it was all new to him. He travelled at a great pace that we know he has but it was just a new thing. We've been placed in the race two or three times but it's a tough race.
"It was a bit tough early but he had to hold his position there, what could he do? We'll look forward to him now at stud."
He said his other runner War Decree (ninth) would "go back to the grass at a mile and a quarter on fast ground."