Bob Baffert hailed Arrogate 's stunning last-to-first success in the Dubai World Cup sponsored by Emirates Airline (G1) as the single-best performance he has seen after the horse was crowned Longines World's Best Racehorse Jan. 23 with a rating of 134 for the second year in a row.
The award of the prize to Arrogate—ahead of Aussie wondermare Winx (132)—was not without some controversy, as Arrogate failed to win again after Dubai, losing on three occasions and being beaten by an aggregate of more than 22 lengths.
But, despite what the title may imply, the award is largely decided on the best one-off performance rather than cumulative achievement, and Baffert was in no doubt that Arrogate produced something special in Dubai.
"I don't think I'll ever witness a race like it again," said Baffert of Arrogate's extraordinary success at Meydan, where he overcame a slow start to power home 2 1/4 lengths in front of subsequent Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) winner Gun Runner , who was joint-third highest-rated with Cracksman at 130.
"Watching the replay got me a little emotional—he just showed so much heart and determination to win. It was off the chart," Baffert said. "That was the single best performance I have ever seen. That was incredible."
Such was the effort Arrogate exerted in the Dubai World Cup that Baffert believes the race left a lasting toll on a star who had won all bar one of his previous outings, racking up impressive wins in the 2016 Breeders' Cup Classic and inaugural Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1), the world's richest race.
Speaking Tuesday from Claridge's in London, where the Longines World's Best Racehorse and World's Best Horse Race ceremony was staged, Baffert said: "To me he looked good in the morning but he just didn't want to perform. After that first race back (in the grade 2 San Diego Handicap) we were thinking of retiring him as that was such an awful performance.
"It really hurt not to see him come back to that (high level). He didn't even come close to it. To this day people still say to me, 'What the hell happened?' But there was nothing obvious."
The world's top 10 in 2017
1st: Arrogate 134
2nd: Winx 132
3rd: Cracksman, Gun Runner 130
5th: Enable 128
6th: Ulysses 126
7th: Cloth Of Stars, Harry Angel 125
9th: Collected, Kitasan Black, Ribchester 124
It is the third year in a row Baffert has been responsible for the World's Best Racehorse, with Triple Crown hero American Pharoah taking the 2015 prize, also with a rating of 134. No horse since the imperious Frankel has posted a rating higher than that achieved by Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup.
Explaining how Arrogate topped the standings despite his form tailing off so spectacularly, British Horseracing Authority head of handicapping Phil Smith, speaking in his role as co-chairman of the Longines World's Best Racehorse rankings committee, said: "Our job is to look at the best sustainable performance over the whole year. We ask if the form of a race can be supported and substantiated by the prior and subsequent performances of the winner and/or placed horses.
"With Arrogate, his Pegasus World Cup win nearly replicates his Dubai World Cup performance. The form of the placed horses in both races is also rock-solid. Arrogate totally lost the plot after Dubai and didn't replicate the form, but the placed horses did.
"Arrogate absolutely wouldn't win if he now had to concede four pounds to Gun Runner, but what we've produced isn't a handicap.
"If Arrogate was still in training, he would clearly be rated lower, but that doesn't denigrate his performance in Dubai, which was stunning. What we are talking about here is a classification of performances from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31."
For the second year in a row Winx was named the leading mare and top turf performer in the world, again achieving a figure of 132.
Winx, who won all nine of her starts in 2017, is on a winning streak of 22 and has a rating to match that of the legendary Black Caviar. She put up her best 2017 performance with a 7 1/4-length victory in the China Horse Club George Ryder Stakes (G1) in March.
Her owners would once again not be drawn on whether she would follow Black Caviar's lead and strut her stuff at Royal Ascot in June.
Cracksman, a hugely impressive seven-length winner of the QIPCO Champion Stakes (G1) on his final start of the campaign, was the highest-rated European-based horse, earning a rating of 130 for his destructive performance on Champions Day. However, Enable, also trained by John Gosden, would come out marginally ahead on adjusted ratings were the pair to meet courtesy of the three-pound fillies' allowance she would receive.
The Longines World's Best Racehorse rankings are updated throughout the year with final deliberations and adjustments taking place following the Hong Kong International Races in December.
Compared to the last interim standings posted in November, which took into account the Breeders' Cup, the figure for only one horse in the top five was amended, with Gun Runner being edged up a pound from 129 to 130.
Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes likely favorite Gun Runner showed exceptional consistency at the highest level by achieving a rating of 130 on four separate occasions in 2017, the marks being given for his grade 1 wins in the Stephen Foster Handicap, Whitney Stakes, Woodward Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets, and Breeders' Cup Classic.
Story courtesy of Racing Post.