12/30/16 By Bob Ehalt
A new year is around the corner and 2017 is scheduled to begin in grand style.
America’s latest wonder horse, Arrogate, will usher in 2017 on Sunday when he runs in the Grade 2 $200,000 San Pasqual at Santa Anita Park.
The Juddmonte Farms colt will face just four rivals, which is hardly surprising given Arrogate’s performances in his last two starts.
The mile-and-a-sixteenth San Pasqual will be Arrogate’s first race since his sensational victory over California Chrome by a half-length in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic – a race in which the two superstars crossed the wire more than 10 lengths ahead of third-place finisher Keen Ice.
Before that, Arrogate burst on to the scene with a monstrous 13 ½-length victory in the Grade 1 Travers, winning in track record time for trainer Bob Baffert.
Now the San Pasqual will serve as his final prep for a scheduled appearance in the $12 million Pegasus World Cup on Jan. 28 at Gulfstream Park – a race in which he and California Chrome will be heavily favored, if all goes as expected on Sunday.
“The San Pasqual will be his hard work,” Baffert said. “From here on out with the rain, things are going to be spotty, so you’ve got to go. I want to get a race into him, but it’s not going to be easy. There are some nice horses in (the San Pasqual).”
The main challenger figures to be Midnight Storm. Primarily a turf runner for trainer Phil D’Amato, he switched back to the main track for the Grade 3 Native Diver last month and won by nearly eight lengths. If he can turn in another strong performance on Sunday it would make him a highly attractive Pegasus candidate to the five stakeholders – each of whom paid $1 million for a spot in the race – who are still searching for a horse to run the race.
The same can be said for the other three starters, Prospect Park, Dalmore and Accelerate. Just finishing within a length or two of Arrogate would bring Pegasus suitors to their owners’ doorstep.
At Aqueduct, 2017 kicks off on Sunday with the $100,000 Lost in the Fog, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds. Then on a special Monday card, there’s a reminder that it’s never too early to talk about the Kentucky Derby. The featured stakes is the 147th running of the Jerome Stakes, a mile and 70 yards test for 3-year-olds that awards points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby series to the top four finishers.