Arrogate: The big, Grey Freight Train

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

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.