By Margaret Ransom & Derek Simon
The much-anticipated 2017 debut of Arrogate will have to wait. Scheduled to go in today’s San Pasqual at Santa Anita Park in preparation for the $12 million Pegasus World Cup (GI) at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 27, the Breeders’ Cup Classic champion will, instead, train up to the world’s richest horse race.
“He’s not running because the track is too wet,” Arrogate’s trainer Bob Baffert told the Racing Post. “He’ll train up to the [Pegasus].”
With the scratch of Baffert’s stable star, perhaps the runner who stands out most is A Venneri Racing and Little Red Feather Racing’s Midnight Storm, who is a Grade I winner on turf and was third in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Mile. Midnight Storm started his career on dirt but quickly found a home on the lawn after winning the Del Mar Derby (GIT) 2 ½ years ago. So, perhaps seeing an opportunity in the older handicap division open up with the retirement of California Chrome and only Arrogate stepping up to replace him, Midnight Storm’s connections entered him in the Native Diver (GIII), a dirt race at 1 1/16 miles, at Del Mar last month and he romped home by 7 ¾ lengths.
Accelerate is a Grade II winner who was a nice third behind Tamarkuz in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI) last out. Lightly raced and carrying some top connections in owner Hronis Racing, trainer John Sadler and jockey Tyler Baze, he’s got a legit shot to take the top prize. He’s bred to route, he is consistent and always trains well.
Prospect Park doesn’t win a lot, but he does like to hit the board, which is a good thing going into this race. His connections are already used to finishing second. He’ll be making his third start back off a nine-month layoff, a statistic a lot of handicappers like to use when gauging fitness. Without the presence of Arrogate, he might be a nice bet at what would likely be a decent price.
Grade III winner Dalmore went to New Mexico for an unsuccessful attempt at the Zia Park Derby last out as the 6-5 favorite so it’s hard to believe he’ll be able to improve enough to defeat the favorites in here.