Arrogate was given an ice cool ride by Mike Smith and bided his time before delivering the dagger to defeat California Chrome in a memorable clash for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita.
The final race of a scintillating meeting was of course the big one and saw California Chrome bidding to crown a decorated career with victory in a race he had finished third in two years ago.
Nine horses went to post for a race with its fair share of high octane drama and shocks down the years.
As the gates burst open, California Chrome shot out of the stalls and into the lead, tracked through by Effinex to the inside and Melatonin to the outer.
Racing around the first bend California Chrome led Melatonin and Frosted, with Arrogate taking closer order on the wide outside and Effinex to the inside.
Victor Espinoza continued to take California Chrome along in front of Melatonin, with the field stretched out at the top of the turn.
California Chrome turned for home in front with Arrogate giving chase and the pair a mile clear of their rivals.
California Chrome was asked for more by Espinoza and kept finding, but Mike Smith and Arrogate kept creeping closer and in the final 100 yards moved into the lead to defeat the Chrome in a sensational finish.
After a low key start to his career, Arrogate shot to prominence with an extraordinary 13 ½ lengths victory, smashing the track record, in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes at Saratoga in August. The question today was whether that was a one-off and whether tactically he could challenge California Chrome.
The three year old son of Unbridled’s Song was giving Bob Baffert an unprecedented third successive victory in the Classic, following the 2014 success of Bayern and last year’s remarkable American Pharoah.
Mike Smith was winning his fourth Classic, while Juddmonte Farms, owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah, more than gained compensation for Flintshire’s earlier defeat.
Baffert said: “I was a bit worried, he was just loping around. I thought ‘man, I hope I have him fit enough’.
“I thought there was no chance turning for home that he could catch Chrome – Chrome is such a great horse. It takes a lot to get me excited and that was some race.
“That last 20 yards (I thought we had a chance). This horse is just learning how to run and what a great race.
“I’m just glad I’m at the top end of it, California Chrome is a champion. I’m surprised I beat him, I didn’t think I could beat him going in.”
California Chrome’s trainer Art Sherman was gracious in defeat and pointed towards the Pegasus World Cup invitational at Gulfstream Park in January as being the final race of California Chrome’s career.
He said: “I’m very proud of the way he ran and there are no excuses. What can I say, he ran his eyeballs out.
“This was really a great race. He will be back for sure.”
Espinoza said: “I am so proud of him, he ran a great race. Maybe in hindsight I should have let him roll a bit earlier. We have had our ups and downs, and I know what it’s like to be down and then come back.
“He was cruising, but we’ve probably met a good horse today.”