Arrogate: The big, Grey Freight Train

Updated: Jun 3


Saratoga stood in awe as the field of the nation’s top three-year olds hit the top of the stretch in the 2016 Travers Stakes (G1). The favorite, Exaggerator, was lost in the dust while a horse who had just won an Allowance race in California was taking command.


The tremendous, grey horse was running away from his competitors with such ease that it was almost unbelievable. That horse was Arrogate and this is his story.


Early Life (2013-2015)


On April 11 in 2013, Clearsky Farm’s mare Bubbler foaled Arrogate. Bubbler had been a pretty successful racehorse, winning stakes races in 2009 and 2010. Bubbler was not just a winner, but also boasted a good female line; her grand-dam, Meadow Star, was named Champion Two-Year Old Filly in 1990.


Arrogate’s sire Unbridled's Song had been a success on the racetrack too. He won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 1995 and races like the Florida Derby (G1) in ‘96. Unbridled’s Song had proven himself to be a strong producer with multiple Grade 1 winning progeny long before Arrogate was even born.


Clearsky’s foal obviously boasted a strong pedigree. Plus, he had a beautiful build, strong bone, and a gorgeous grey coat to go along with it.


Arrogate entered the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2014 as Hip #498. He stepped into the ring with such a royal presence about him. He was calm, standing proudly with his ears perked. The marking on his face shone bright underneath the room’s lights.

The hammer fell at $560,000. Juddmonte Farms would be racing him in their teal and pink silks. After receiving his basic education, Arrogate was sent to the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Baffert saw potential in his horse, but knew he needed more time than the average horse to grow and mature. He decided not to race Arrogate as a two-year old.


[Video: Watch Arrogate sell as a yearling]



Three-Year Old Season (2016)


Arrogate made his debut on April 17th, 2016 at Los Alamitos as the heavy favorite. Unfortunately for those who wagered on him, Arrogate finished third. His defeat, however, was gallant. He was closing fast and had he gotten the chance to get just a few more strides in, he would have won.


Team Arrogate regrouped for a rebound in June, this time at Santa Anita. Arrogate was again the heavy favorite. This time he refused to let the bettors down, breaking his maiden on his second time out.


After breaking his maiden, Arrogate started a winning streak that would put his name among the greats of horse racing. He first won an Allowance Optional Claiming in June at Santa Anita and then another at Del Mar in August.


He was winning so impressively that his connections made the decision to take their horse all the way to New York for the “Midsummer Derby” - the Travers Stakes (G1). The Travers Stakes has long been known as one of the toughest races for three-year olds. It is where the horses who won on the Triple Crown trail come to prove themselves again. That year’s Preakness winner Exaggerator and Belmont winner Creator would be facing off. Also among the field were names like Gun Runner and American Freedom. On paper, it looked to be a competitive race.


When the bell rang and the gate flew open, Arrogate sprung forward and moved up the rail like a machine. He took command and set a fast pace. He began opening up a gap between him and his rivals as they rounded the far turn. At the top of the stretch, the Allowance winner began bounding away from the field with incredible ease.


Fans in the grandstands and on their couches felt the hair raise on the back of their neck as Arrogate moved down the stretch. Arrogate crossed the wire 13 ½ lengths ahead of the rest of the field, setting a track record of 1:59.36 for 9 furlongs.


[Video: Watch Arrogate's breakthrough win in the Gr.1 Travers]


Now, all eyes were on Arrogate.


The colt received a ten-week layoff between his win in the Travers and his start in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). There he would be facing the great California Chrome as well as Keen Ice, Frosted, Effinex, and Hoppertunity. The race was slated to be a showdown between California Chrome and Arrogate.


Arrogate broke well and sat in third with his sights set on California Chrome. As they rounded the far turn, Mike Smith sent Arrogate to the inside of Melatonin and began moving up the rail towards his chestnut rival. Jockey Victor Espinoza looked over his shoulder and saw the big, grey horse coming at him with huge strides. He knew he had to go - he urged California Chrome forward and the chestnut took a big breath of air and began bounding away from Arrogate.


It looked like California Chrome would hold off Arrogate to win. But, as soon as Mike Smith touched the whip to Arrogate’s right side, the colt went flying. He soared past California Chrome to win by a half-length! Arrogate was voted Champion Three-Year Old Colt and was the leading money earner of 2016.

[Video: Watch Arrogate defeat California Chrome in the Breeders' Cup Classic]


Four-Year Old Season (2017)


In the span of just a few months, Arrogate had gone from an Allowance winner to what some considered to be one of the best horses they had seen in a long time.


On January 28th, Arrogate faced California Chrome for the second time in the Pegasus Invitational Stakes (G1) at Gulfstream Park. This time, California Chrome was no competition for the grey colt. Chrome faded to the back of the pack while Arrogate won with incredible ease.


"Once I got out going into the far turn, I knew we were going to be very tough to beat," Mike Smith told BloodHorse. “He had a lot of run today and I was very happy. As far as winning the world's richest race, I'm absolutely numb."


The next step for Arrogate was the Dubai World Cup. When the gates opened, Arrogate came out slowly and started the race in dead last. As the field went around the track, Smith slowly moved Arrogate around horses. When they got off the far turn, Arrogate was in third and absolutely soaring down the track. He ran down Gun Runner with ease to get to the wire 2 ¼ lengths before everyone else.


"I missed the break completely," Mike Smith told BloodHorse. "I said, 'I'm just going to ride him like Zenyatta. I had no choice but to just sit there and let him collect himself."

[Video: Watch Arrogate's last to first win in the Dubai World Cup]


Following his victory in the Dubai World Cup, Arrogate simply wasn’t the same horse. He made his next start in the San Diego Handicap (G2). He didn’t fire like he usually did, finishing a well beaten 4th to Accelerate. He then ran in the Pacific Classic (G1), where he closed quickly but was unable to beat Collected to the wire.


Arrogate’s performance in the Pacific Classic wasn’t terrible. He had finished second and could have won had the race been a bit longer. Knowing this, Arrogate entered their horse into the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) to try for back to back wins. Unfortunately, Arrogate seemed absolutely disinterested in the whole event and finished 5th.


Bob Baffert knew that his horse was done. He wasn’t showing the same type of drive he had shown the previous year. He was tired of the racetrack and ready to begin his career as a stallion, so Baffert sent him home to Juddmonte Farms.


Retirement & Stud Career (2018-2020)


Arrogate arrived at Juddmonte Farms as a champion. He had earned himself a record of 11:7-1-1 and was again the leading money earner of 2017. All in all, Arrogate had earned $17.4 million.


Arrogate’s stud fee was set for $75,000. Some of the country’s best mares went to him for his first season at stud. 25% of Arrogate’s first book of mares were Grade 1 winners or Grade 1 producers. 87.5% of his first book of mares were black-type winners or producers.


Clearly, Juddmonte managed Arrogate’s book well to ensure that his first crop of foals have the best shot at becoming winners as possible. Though nothing is guaranteed in horse racing, the industry likes the look of his first set of foals and many people believed that he could have been as great of a sire as Unbridled’s Song.


Unfortunately, Arrogate didn't have much time after entering stud. He was euthanized on June 2nd, 2020 at just seven years old from an undetermined illness. The horse racing world went into mourning over the loss of this grand stallion. Fans recount the way he made them feel when he ran and the great presence he had about him at stud.


Arrogate knew he was a star and the racing world knew it too. Though he is gone much too soon, his memory will live in forever in the minds and hearts of the horse racing fans who loved him dearly.


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