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Arrogate could be Bob Baffert's next great champion

Jockey Mike Smith celebrates aboard Arrogate after winning

Jockey Mike Smith celebrates aboard Arrogate after winning The Travers Stakes horse race at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016. Credit: AP / Hans Pennink

SARATOGA SPRINGS - SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Give Bob Baffert a moderately bred horse and he can turn it into a champion. Hook him up with one of the world’s wealthiest owners, and the possibilities are limitless.

Arrogate’s Travers triumph Saturday may have been only the beginning for a dominant alliance of Baffert and international superpower Juddmonte Farms. The front-running colt broke Saratoga’s track record for 1 1⁄4 miles, needing only 1:59.36 in a 13 1⁄2-length runaway at 11-1 odds. There may be others like him at Keeneland’s yearling sale next month, and Baffert will be bidding on them for Prince Khalid Abdullah.

The Saudi Arabian businessman paid $560,000 for Arrogate, whom Baffert picked out at Keeneland two Septembers ago. With Abdullah’s huge bankroll, who knows how many more million-dollar stakes they might win together.

Dr. John Chandler, Juddmonte’s president, and Abdullah were longtime allies with Bobby Frankel, who trained dozens of stakes winners and five champions for them before his death in 2009. Most ran on turf, and before Arrogate’s breakthrough, their biggest win on dirt was Empire Maker’s 2003 Belmont Stakes.

Juddmonte’s silks — green, pink sash, white sleeves, pink cap — have ruled in Europe since the 1970s. Its immortal Frankel went 14-for-14 for Henry Cecil in England from 2010-12 and is considered this century’s best thoroughbred.

“Prince Khalid has had the best horse in the world, and in 40 years in major international racing, he’s had a lot of very, very good horses,’’ Chandler said Saturday. “We’ve had some very nice horses in this country, but Arrogate is the best colt we’ve had. And I’d like to thank Bob for the marvelous job he’s done with him. It’s kind of a European thing to take a horse straight from an allowance race into a Grade I.”

Records indicate Arrogate was the first Travers winner to pull that off since at least 1960. If he hadn’t been immature and “gangly,” his career debut wouldn’t have been delayed until April 7, a month before the Kentucky Derby. If Arrogate had been ready, maybe Baffert would not have been a nonfactor in the Triple Crown the year after sweeping it with American Pharoah.

Pharoah ran second as the heavy favorite in last year’s Travers, so Arrogate is one up on him there. “Maybe this horse will take the sting out of not having Pharoah around,” Baffert said. “I’m not going to crown him yet, but at least he’s got us excited. But there never will be another Pharoah.’’

Arrogate will return to Southern California on Monday. “We’ll see how much this race took out of him,’’ Baffert said. “I think that after what he did today, he could go into the Breeders’ Cup Classic fresh, like Pharoah did.”


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