It was still dark and a misty rain had yet to begin falling Sunday morning when Jimmy Barnes, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert and trusted traveling partner to his best horses, arrived on the Gulfstream Park backstretch to check on their stable star.
Fresh off his commanding victory late the previous afternoon in the world's richest race, the inaugural $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1), Juddmonte Farms' Arrogate was waiting.
“I got here around 5:30. We didn't have to nudge him or wake him up. He was already up,” Barnes said. “This is him. He recovers quickly. He's just a freak. He came out of the race in excellent shape. He cooled out quick last night. It was just an awesome race.”
Arrogate ran his win streak to six races with his third consecutive Grade 1 victory and second straight over California Chrome, the two-time Horse of the Year making his career finale. In his 4-year-old debut and just his seventh lifetime start, Arrogate won by 4 ¾ lengths despite not being asked by Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith in the last of nine furlongs, finishing in 1:47.61.
“He's got such a huge stride and he relaxes and shuts down, and when you call on him he responds,” Barnes said. “I kind of saw early that Chrome really wasn't Chrome. We had to get out of the one hole and get into position and he did that. Mike got him out there and got him where he needed to be. He was still sitting behind horses but when Mike called upon him to move and get into the clear, he accelerated, got his way out of there, got to the lead and kept on going. And Mike shut him down, too.”
Arrogate walked the shed row Sunday before going back to his stall where he enthusiastically greeted the few visitors who stopped by to offer congratulations, take pictures and feed him carrots. He boarded a Brook Ledge van at 8:45 a.m. headed to Palm Beach International Airport for a Tex Sutton flight that will take him back to California, where they are scheduled to land at 6:30 p.m. EST.
Also on the van with Arrogate were Santa Anita-based Imperative, winner of the Pegasus' companion race, the $400,000 Poseidon, and Semper Fortis, who finished seventh in the Pegasus.
“It's hard to tell but I imagine he knows how good he is. He acts like he does,” Barnes said. “It was exciting, the world's largest purse. We want to be involved in that and we want to win that, so it was fun. It was a lot of fun. It was a great day.”
With Baffert already on his way back to California, Barnes did not speculate on the immediate future for Arrogate. Returning to the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), hosted by Del Mar for the first time in November, is the year-end goal.
“I know the Breeders' Cup Classic is in the plans again this year but we just want to keep him healthy. That's the main thing,” Barnes said. “I'm pretty down to earth and just stay close to the horse, make sure he stays healthy and sound and just move on to the next race, wherever that may be.”
A late-developing son of Unbridled's Song who didn't debut until the spring of his sophomore year, Arrogate's rise to stardom follows in the footsteps of American Pharoah, his former stablemate that Baffert trained to the 2015 Triple Crown.
“Life had to go on without American Pharoah, and he steps up,” Barnes said. “It's tough coming off of an American Pharoah-type year because these kinds of horses come around once in a lifetime. To get two, back-to-back, it's incredible. It's amazing.”
A larger crowd gathered at Barn 2 to say farewell to California Chrome, who boarded a Sallee van shortly before 9 a.m. He and Arrogate will be aboard the same Tex Sutton flight, which will stop in Lexington, Ky. first before traveling on to Ontario, Calif.
California Chrome will exit the plane in Kentucky and will be vanned to Taylor Made Farm, in Nicholasville, where he will begin stud duties next month. He is expected to start test breeding mares this week.
California Chrome's trainer, Art Sherman, departed Florida for California early Sunday morning. Members of the Taylor family, Duncan and Frank, were on hand for California Chrome's departure from Gulfstream Park.
On Saturday evening, Sherman said California Chrome had swelling in his right knee following his ninth-place finish in the Pegasus, where he was beaten 29 ½ lengths. Upon his arrival at Taylor Made, X-rays will be taken to determine more.
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