On a day like this where our beloved sport produced its finest moments just to be followed by incredible tragedy, it’s comforting that we racing fans can drown our sorrow – at least for a moment – in excitement about the next big race.
It might be fickle, it might feel wrong but this is simply the circle of life in our game of horse racing. Greats come, Greats go, the next star’s just been borne… but that is racing also: legends are never forgotten.
And a legend we’ll never forget is the great Many Clouds, who sadly left us today, after a heroic win at Cheltenham. I had the privilege to see this almighty horse winning the Grand National in 2015 – a historic performance is was. What a warrior, what a star, a true Great of our game. RIP big fella….
But there it is, the next big race – its protagonists deserve our full attention. This big race is the inaugural Pegasus World Cup. World class prize money on offer, with a purse of $12 million it’s the richest race on earth! although it’s debatable whether the tag “World Cup” is justified, given it’s a race on dirt with no foreign raider in the 12-runner line-up and only two of them truly deserve to be called world class.
Nonetheless this is an intriguing contest like few others, purely because those two world class horses are no less than the recently crowned number one and two of the world rankings: Arrogate and California Chrome!
A single pound between the two in the ratings indicates what a close contest we might witness tonight – effectively a match-race, much like when these two met the first- and last time. That was in November, in the Breeders Cup Classic, a day when the three year old Arrogate prevailed by half a lengths after a thrilling finish down the home straight.
Arrogate won fair and square that day in my humble opinion. In fact he looks special, which became evident to me after his sensational performance in the Travers Stakes. It looked almost unreal the way he demolished his rivals in what was a top notch Grade 1!
However is he really better than California Chrome? The jury is still out, I feel. Let’s not forget Arrogate received a handy little weight for age allowance in the Breeders Cup Classic, and no doubt he endured a much less gruelling season leading up to the big race at Santa Anita than the 2014 Kentucky Derby winner certainly did.
Chrome in contrast travelled the world, ripped the Dubai World Cup field apart and went on to win two more Grade ones, making super mare Beholder look ordinary in the Pacific Classic. Whether he was still at 100% in November, when on go for so long, where one big race followed the next is hard to say.
What is easy to say: Chrome is not slowing down. He’s as good as ever, judged on an easy prep run at Los Alamitos in the middle of December. Arrogate in contrast didn’t have another race since the Breeders Cup. A disadvantage? I reckon it’s not. For all he’s still the younger horse, with fresher legs and upside.
Tactics will be interesting today. Arrogate is drawn on the inside, Chrome widest on the outside. Two tricky gates to start from. Chrome may need to work to get up with the pace where he usually wants to sit whereas Arrogate has to be careful not to get boxed in.
Nonetheless when it really comes down to it, these two will fight it out. Who’s going to win? Impossible to say. My gut feeling is that Chrome might have a little bit more going for himself here. The run under his belt last month, he meets Arrogate at level weights today and the not insignificant drop to nine furlongs could be more in his favour too.
After all, it’s probably fair to say that this is a coin flip. With that in mind I got to go with California Chrome. He’s a the value price. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets outstayed in thrilling finish by the extra special Arrogate. In less than two hours we’ll find out.
Selection: California Chrome @ 6/4 Skybet