By Joseph Hammond
Reporting from Dubai, UAE -- Last year’s Dubai World Cup was won by California Chrome, who outran all comers to take the world's richest horse race. Chrome's win was particularly sweet after failing to win the 2015 Dubai World Cup.
This year, the 2017 Dubai World Cup night remains the richest in horse racing, but the Dubai World Cup itself may no longer be the world’s richest horse race overall. That’s because this year saw the first ever running of the Pegasus Invitational Cup in Florida, which offered 12 million dollars in prize money.
That’s two million more on paper than the Dubai World Cup's ten million dollar prize. But in the end the difference might not be so great, given the Federal and State taxes that might apply to the Pegasus winner. Additionally, Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is a personal patron of horse racing and funds the entry of horses, offsetting some of the expense.
More bizarrely, the Pegasus Cup might be run in another Stronach Group-owned track: Santa Anita, with races perhaps alternating between the two sites. Since the Pegasus Cup was named for a 110-foot statue in Florida, it’s a bit bizarre to have a 2018 edition in California.
The 2017 Pegasus Invitational Cup was won by Arrogate, who beat out Chrome, the American Horse of the Year in 2016. The two were even at one point, but Chrome was eased off after failing to respond. Media reports speculated that Chrome might have been injured early in the race.
Arrogate also will be the horse to beat in this race. No matter who is at the top of the first turn, Arrogate likely has the speed to catch him. Rarely has a horse enjoyed such confidence and support by the media and horse racing insiders.
Arrogate would be best to recall his former opponent, California Chrome, who also was the heavy favorite in 2015 and came up short. The rain and Arrogate’s post position -- number nine -- could be other factors which influence his position. Arrogance about his chances is the last thing he needs.
If Arrogate can’t overcome the leader at the first turn, you have to consider Gun Runner (number 5). Gun Runner was kept out of the Pegasus Cup over a technicality when his trainer refused to allow his horse to undergo nose swabs for an equine virus. If Arrogate misfires and fails to reload, Gun Runner could pick his way to the front.
In addition to working with Arrogate, superstar trainer Bob Baffert also trains Hoppertunity (number 12), who should be given a second look because of that connection and Baffert’s history at the Dubai World Cup. Baffert, one way or another, will be aiming for his third Dubai World Cup win tonight.