Jockey Mike Smith expects Arrogate to bounce back in Pacific Classic at Del Mar
DEL MAR — Did Del Mar really run the San Diego Handicap on July 22? Was that race just a figment of our imagination? Did Arrogate, thought to be virtually unbeatable after four consecutive Grade I victories, really finish fourth, beaten by 15¼ lengths, as a 1-20 favorite?
As far as Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith is concerned, it didn’t occur. He’s completely blocked it from his memory bank. Or at least he’s trying to forget it happened.
“It was such a clunker that he threw that I’m going to pretend it didn’t happen,” Smith said this week while preparing to ride Arrogate in Saturday’s $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar. “This is his first race back since Dubai because he didn’t run. It’s not like he ran and got outrun.”
Smith’s career has been one big storybook run with great horse after great horse. He can remember two that failed to show up when the gates opened like Arrogate in the San Diego Handicap — Holy Bull and Cigar.
“Holy Bull is one I’ll always remember,” he said.
Holy Bull finished last in the Fountain of Youth, according to Smith, and then rebounded in a manner that he hopes Arrogate duplicates today.
“He came back and won the Florida Derby by eight (lengths),” Smith said. “Came back, won the Blue Grass by many, went into the Kentucky Derby as a big favorite and threw another fluke, and then never got beat again (until his career finale).”
Smith also recalls Cigar struggling before turning it around.
“Cigar, before he went on his winning streak, he threw in a clunker and then all of a sudden he comes back and wins 16 in a row,” he said.
Does Arrogate have it in him to rebound from the worst race of his career? He’d won seven of eight before the San Diego Handicap, his only blemish a close third in his career debut in April 2016 at Los Alamitos. Is it Del Mar’s deep, tiring track? He can’t be finished at age 4, can he?
“I’m gonna ride him out of there hard, I’m going to be aggressive with him, put him on up there, and then let him take over,” Smith said of Arrogate’s No. 8 post as the even-money favorite.
“After that, he’s gotta take over and run his race. If he doesn’t, he’ll be in trouble because there’s a couple other nice horses in there that can really run. He’s gonna have to go out there and do his job. He didn’t do it the other day.”
Four weeks later, Smith is still at a loss to explain the dismal performance.
“I knew right away (he wasn’t himself),” he said. “A horse stumbled so bad next to me, got up in my way, and I wasn’t able to get him into the race. He fell out of it and right away, just his body language, just everything, was just negative. He didn’t want no part of it.
“Who knows? Maybe it will turn out to be a blessing. Maybe he’ll come back and just show up. As long as he runs his race, he’s going to be difficult (to beat). You hope that he shows up, runs his race, and then the rest will take care of itself.”
Smith has been on hand for Arrogate’s past two workouts and sees a different horse.
“His body language is a whole lot different,” he said. “He’s working well. His energy level is there. He’s just gotta run. I’m gonna draw a line through (his last) and pretend that it was a breeze.”
What’s Smith expect today?
“He’s gonna run. He’s gonna run well,” he said.
If he doesn’t, expect Collected or Accelerate to land in the winner’s circle.
Accelerate won the San Diego Handicap by 8½ lengths in a very impressive 1:42 for the 1-1/16 miles over a main track that has not been producing fast times this summer. He’s 3 for 3 at Del Mar. He’s the real deal. The question is whether he can go a mile and a quarter.
Collected has won his past three races by a combined 21½ lengths, going into the Pacific Classic off a 14-length victory in the Grade III Precisionist Stakes at Santa Anita on June 24 when he beat Accelerate by 15¾ lengths.
PACIFIC CLASSIC AT A GLANCE
What: 27th running of the Pacific Classic
Where: Del Mar
When: Saturday, with approximate post time of 5:40 p.m.
Purse: $1 million
Distance: 1¼ miles on the main track
Favorites: Arrogate, even-money; Collected, 5-2; Accelerate, 3-1
Powered by WPeMatico