By Joseph Hammond
Reporting from Dubai, UAE -- In only the second rainy night in the history of the Dubai World Cup, Arrogate, the superstar horse trained by the legendary Bob Baffert, galloped to an incredible come-from-behind win Saturday on a wet track. Arrogate pocketed $6 million with his victory.
The crowd roared with approval as the heavy favorite came home for the win, followed by Gun Runner and Neolithic. Thus, the top three finishers were American-bred horses who made the long trip to Dubai. Qatar Racing’s Neolithic, whose third place finish was a surprise, performed well out of the gate.
Qatar Racing purchased a stake in the 2017 Dubai World Cup only days before the race. Sheikh Fahad al-Thani’s Qatar Racing acquired four-year-old Neolithic in a field that included horses with ties ranging from Japan to Turkmenistan, for a truly international Dubai World Cup.
Neolithic had last been seen in action in a Florida appearance at the Pegasus World Cup. Despite being a 30-1 underdog in that race, Neolithic gathered speed down the final stretch and had a good shot at finishing second before succumbing to a late effort by Shaman Ghost.
Arrogate won that race as well, and thus, Neolithic has now come up third in the two richest horse races in the world this year.
Neolithic's trainer, Todd Pletcher, had his hands full at the 2017 Dubai World Cup. In addition to training Neolithic, he handled another American-bred horse: Keen Ice.
Although the two horses had tandem post positions, Pletcher had both horses follow a similar pattern in preparation for the Dubai World Cup. One exception may have proven key: Neolithic’s training regimen included a pre-dawn workout to get the horse used to racing on the wet track and running under the lights.
“He is feeling great and looking great,” exercise rider Nick Bush told the media after one of those runs earlier in the week. “The lights won’t bother him tomorrow, and I think he’s going to run well.”
The lights didn’t bother Neolithic, but they might have bothered Arrogate, who didn’t get a good start out of the gate. Still, the horse's rough start didn’t bother 51-year-old jockey Mike Smith. As the mud flicked into his goggles, he thought of California and another famous horse produced by Santa Anita: Zenyatta.
“I said to myself, 'I’m going to run this like I did with Zenyatta,'" Smith said, recalling his dramatic 2009 come-from-behind victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Bob Baffert, the trainer of the winning horse, was equally ecstatic with Arrogate’s win. Arrogate now has seven wins in eight starts. The horse's Saudi owners plan to have the horse run next in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
“At one point . . . I gave up on Arrogate he was so far back, and started looking for my other horse [Hoppertunity], but then he came from behind. Look if that race didn’t excite you, then horse racing isn’t for you," said an ecstatic Baffert at the press conference.
When asked by The Daily Sports Herald if he was worried about the rain, Baffert said it was no concern at all, “You know maybe without the rain though we would have set the track record.”
Baffert also compared the victory to the film Seabiscuit, and to the improbable comeback victory of the New England Patriots in this year’s Super Bowl.
“I’ll be flying to Los Angeles tomorrow, and don’t worry I won’t need my laptop,” he said with a laugh.