In his first work since his half-length loss to stablemate Collected in the Aug. 19 TVG Pacific Classic Stakes (G1) at Del Mar, Juddmonte Farms' Arrogate showed trainer Bob Baffert positive signs he'll be ready for his next racing challenge.
While Baffert is still playing it "week by week" with the 4-year-old champion leading up to the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) Nov. 4 at Del Mar, he was pleased with the latest move from his charge.
Traveling over the Santa Anita Park main track by himself the morning of Sept. 18, Arrogate, with Rafael Bejarano aboard, worked a half-mile in :49 3/5, cutting splits of :12 2/5 and :25 1/5 before galloping out to five furlongs in 1:02 3/5.
"He went really nice. I just wanted a nice, easy half-mile," Baffert said. "Bejarano worked him for me, he knows the horse really well. He said he felt great under him, and went nice and easy.
"He didn't work really fast, but I just don't want to do that to him. I'm really happy where he's at right now. (He) came back, (and) it was like nothing for him. He doesn't need to do a lot. He looks like he's got his weight back."
After rattling off four consecutive top-level victories—including a seemingly impossible last-to-first score in the Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1)—Arrogate finished fourth, beaten 15 1/4 lengths, in the July 22 TVG San Diego Handicap (G2) at Del Mar, his second U.S. start in 2017.
After that stunning defeat, he worked three more times at the seaside track and came back Aug. 19 in the $1 million Pacific Classic. In that race, he pressed the pace set by fellow Baffert-trainee Collected, drifted out into the stretch still three lengths off the leader in third, and rallied with a late effort that wasn't enough to catch his stablemate at the wire.
With Arrogate's puzzling last two races, Baffert wanted input from someone who knows the horse to give him feedback on how he felt Monday.
"(For his) first work back, I just wanted to make sure that somebody who knows the horse really well (was aboard). I needed his input," he said of Bejarano. "He said (Arrogate) felt strong, he just said he went perfect, like the Arrogate that he knows. So I was happy with that."
While another run in the Breeders' Cup Classic has been the ultimate goal this season for the son of Unbridled's Song, Baffert said he will only run the horse if he is performing well.
"It's week to week. It's work to work right now. If he's doing really, really well, we run," the trainer said.
"(It's) the same boat I was in with (2015 Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup Classic winner) American Pharoah . If you were to tell me in September that we were running in the Breeders' Cup, I would have told you, I don't know, we're 50-50. Right now, I like the way (Arrogate) looks and I was happy with his work. I see big improvements."
On Monday morning, Baffert was balancing the emotions of being pleased with the work, while being concerned for his assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes, who fractured his pelvis during a Sept. 17 incident where he became unseated from a stable pony. Baffert said Barnes was in the hospital and would undergo surgery soon.
"That horse stumbled or did something and he fell over the top of him and crushed his pelvis," Baffert said. "They haven't operated on him yet. He'll be alright, but it's what I came back to. I'm just really worried about Jimmy because he's such an important part of our operation. I'm on pins and needles until they do surgery on him."
Other half-mile workers for Baffert at Santa Anita on Monday included multiple grade 1 winner Abel Tasman, :48; Woody Stephens Stakes (G2) winner American Anthem and last year's Chandelier Stakes (G1) winner Noted and Quoted earning the bullet in :47 1/5; and Travers Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) winner West Coast and Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes (G1) winner Cupid who went in :47 2/5. Going five furlongs in 1:01 4/5 was multiple graded stakes winner Goldy Espony.