In one of the most stirring performances in recent horse racing history, Arrogate went from last to first to win the $10-million Dubai World Cup going away on Saturday at the Meydan Race Course in the United Arab Emirates.
Arrogate broke slowly and then was squeezed by other horses leaving him last through the first part of the race. But then jockey Mike Smith steadied him, showed patience and by the far turn had him picking off horses one by one in the 14-horse field.
It was an amazing performance for a horse running just his eighth race.
With 200 meters to go, he caught Gun Runner and then sped past him, with Smith using a left-hand whip only once down the deep stretch to score the win in the 1 1/4-mile race by 2 1/4 lengths.
"When he missed the break I gave him no chance at all," said trainer Bob Baffert. "I thought that was it. I was mad at myself. Maybe I shouldn't have brought him. That's the greatest horse I've ever seen run."
Smith harkened back to the legendary filly and mare Zenyatta, whose running style was always last to first.
"When he got away so badly, I have so much confidence in this horse, I thought I'm going to ride him just like Zenyatta," Smith said while the horse was headed to the winner's circle. "This horse is amazing. He can go 22 [seconds] on the lead, he can come from dead last. … Look at him, it's like he hasn't even taken a breath."
Smith, always careful comparing horses, dodged those kinds of questions. Baffert, who trained Triple Crown winner American Pharoah two years ago, was less circumspect.
"When I saw him down the backstretch after that break, I was thinking he would have to be some kind of super horse that I've never seen," Baffert said of a victory. "I thought I was watching the movie 'Seabiscuit.' … I told my wife if this horse wins, he's the most incredible horse I've seen in my life."
Regardless of whether he's the most incredible, he's certainly the richest.
The win, worth $6 million, made him the highest earning horse in North American history at more than $17 million. Second place is the recently retired California Chrome at almost $15 million.
California Chrome took 27 races to accomplish that feat. Arrogate's last two races have been worth $13 million, as the 4-year-old colt also won the $12-million Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream. He has won a total of $17,064,800.
It was a sweep for U.S. horses at Dubai as Gun Runner finished second and Neolithic took third. There is no on-track wagering at Meydan.
Baffert has brilliantly brought along Arrogate's career. He wasn't ready for last year's Triple Crown races so Baffert didn't push him. Arrogate ran his first race on April 17, a third-place finish at Los Alamitos, his only loss.
He broke his maiden at Santa Anita on June 5 and won again at Santa Anita and then Del Mar before his eye-popping win in the $1.25-million Travers Stakes at Saratoga. He won by 14 1/2 lengths in a track-record time.
It was then that the inevitable meeting with California Chrome at the Breeders' Cup Classic was set up. Arrogate won that race with a late kick and his brilliance was affirmed. He beat Chrome again in the Pegasus, as Chrome ended his career with a very lackluster ninth-place finish.
It's unclear which race is next for Arrogate. The ultimate goal is the Breeders' Cup Classic in November at Del Mar.
Baffert said he may give the horse off until at least August, putting him squarely in the picture of the Pacific Classic also at Del Mar.
It was Baffert's third Dubai World Cup win, following Silver Charm (1998) and Captain Steve (2001).
2:30 p.m.: This article has been updated with additional background information and comments from trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith.