By Geoffrey Riddle
Bob Baffert hopes to have Arrogate back to his best for the Breeders’ Cup Classic after the world’s highest-rated horse went down to stablemate Collected in the TVG Pacific Classic overnight at Del Mar.
Collected, masterfully ridden on the lead by jockey Martin Garcia, handed Baffert his fifth triumph in the 10-furlong race by holding off the late thrust of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Pegasus World Cup and Dubai World Cup winner and jockey Mike Smith by half a length.
Accelerate, winner of the San Diego Handicap in which Arrogate was a mystifying fourth at odds of 1-20, was third, three and three-quarter lengths behind Arrogate.
This latter half of the season was always going to be about building up to a defence of Arrogate's Classic crown after the successful trip to Meydan, and it is not impossible for the roan colt to find his best form in the next few months.
Baffert has already admitted that his stable star was short of work prior to last month's abject defeat. In truth this was a much better performance, but the silver-haired maestro was hardly convincing.
“Arrogate, at least he tried today,” Baffert said.
“He’s getting there, but I think that when I ran him in the San Diego it messed up his psyche a little bit. I don’t think I have a problem bringing him back in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.Arrogate beat California Chrome in the Classic last season (Eclipse Sportswire)
"But he’s got to be fresh, just like Collected came in here fresh. And Collected is a very good horse.”
Arrogate is now a best-priced 3-1 from 13-8 with Betfair, Paddy Power and Skybet to become the first dual winner of the Classic since Tiznow in 2001. As the Pacific Classic is a 'Win And You're In' race for the Breedes' Cup, his conqueror is no better than 7-1. The $6million contest is staged back at Del Mar on November 4.
“If he just improves a little bit, we’ll be all right,” Smith said of his mount. “He was a lot better today than last time; just not good enough.”
Collected, a four-year-old son of City Zip, Grade One winner who died this year, was scoring his fourth straight victory, including a 14-length demolition in the Precisionist at Santa Anita.
It was Collected’s eighth win in eleven starts and gave Garcia his second victory in the $1million event. Garcia set early fractions of :23.76 seconds, :47.19 before completing the race in 1minute:11.06s, 1:35.27, and 2:00.70.
“I liked where I was all the way around there,” Garcia said of Collected’s performance. “I could tell how fast we were going and my horse was relaxed. He felt so good, all the way around.
“When I asked him at the top of the stretch, he was running 100% worth. I hit him a few times, but he was giving me his all. I could feel Mike’s horse [Arrogate] coming. It was like an animal creeping up behind me. But we had enough to get it done.”
Collected’s owner Peter Fluor was understandably delighted.
“Obviously, this is a big thrill,” he said. “Arrogate is a legend and I’m a great fan. I guess you’d say I’m a bit humbled by all of this, but very proud to beat Arrogate. When I have a cocktail tonight, I’ll say Collected is a special horse too.”