Arrogate works at Santa Anita Park Dec. 27

Arrogate works at Santa Anita Park Dec. 27

Zoe Metz

Midnight Storm Challenges Arrogate in San Pasqual

Arrogate, by Unbridled's Song, will be commanding favorite in the grade II test.

California Chrome  had his prep for the Pegasus World Cup (gr. I) Dec. 17 at Los Alamitos Race Course. Now it's Arrogate 's turn across town.

Juddmonte Farms' gray colt, who upended California Chrome's undefeated season Nov. 5 in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I), is scheduled to return to the Santa Anita Park main track in the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes (gr. II) Jan. 1, with hopes to use the race as a springboard to the Jan. 28 Pegasus World Cup.

"The (threat of) rain (in the forecast) has me a little bit worried, but I didn't want to be waiting too long to put a race into him," said Arrogate's trainer, Bob Baffert. "The San Pasqual will be his hard work. From here on out, with the rain, things are going to be spotty, so you've got to go.

"I want to get a race into him, but it's not going to be easy. There are some nice horses in there."

The field is short, with only five horses entered for the 1 1/16-mile test, but all have graded victories to their credit.

The main threat to Arrogate figures to be A Venneri  Racing and Little Red Feather Racing's Midnight Storm . A five-time graded winner on turf—including a top-level score in the June 4 Shoemaker Mile (gr. IT)—the speedy 6-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile  encouraged trainer Phil D'Amato with a dominant main-track victory last-time out in the Native Diver (gr. III) at Del Mar Nov. 27, which followed a third-place run—only two lengths back—in the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT).

NOVAK: Midnight Storm Runs Away With Native Diver

"We always thought, in the back of our minds, that he was just as good on the dirt as he was on the grass," D'Amato said of Midnight Storm, whose only other stakes start on dirt was a last-place run in the 2015 Pacific Classic (gr. I). "In the Pacific Classic, he got hooked in a speed duel and it just wasn't a good gauge of durability, but the horse he was back then and the horse he is now are two different horses.

"He's bigger, stronger, more mature, and his confidence level is sky-high right now. It's a good time to get a good gauge on where we're at."

On his prospects of defeating Arrogate, however, D'Amato is somewhat tepid and acknowledged the difficulty of the task at hand.

"In my opinion, beating Chrome makes him a leading Horse of the Year candidate, so you've got to look at it like you're running against the best horse in the country, " D'Amato said. "My horse couldn't be training any better and I'm looking forward to running against him and seeing where we're at."

The other entrants in the field include Hronis Racing's Accelerate, the Los Alamitos Derby (gr. II) winner who finished third in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) last time out; Affirmed Stakes (gr. III) victor Dalmore, who is winless in his past three starts, all at different racetracks, but has won his last three races at Santa Anita; and Prospect Park, who enters the San Pasqual hoping to earn his first win since the La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIIT) in August of 2015.

Entries: San Pasqual S. (G2)

Santa Anita Park, Sunday, January 01, 2017, Race 8

  • Grade II
  • 1 1/16m
  • Dirt
  • $200,000
  • 4 yo's & up
  • 4:00 PM (local)
11Prospect Park (KY)Norberto Arroyo, Jr.120Clifford W. Sise, Jr.10/1
22Accelerate (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateTyler Baze125John W. Sadler8/1
33Dalmore (FL)Keeneland Sales GraduateKent J. Desormeaux122J. Keith Desormeaux20/1
44Midnight Storm (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateRafael Bejarano125Philip D'Amato4/1
55Arrogate (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateMike E. Smith125Bob Baffert1/5