RACING fans are looking forward to see US stars California Chrome and Arrogate meet in the inaugural Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park, Florida. This could be a heart-stopping match race of the sort that we saw in their last outing together, last November’s epic Breeders’ Cup, when Arrogate edged Chrome out by a half a length.
The match race is much longed-for, and today will be Chrome’s valedictory, of course, before retirement to stud. But there’s an “if,” and it’s a relatively big one: If the post positions permit the Pegasus to become the match race at all—meaning, whether Chrome’s now well-known, disastrous draw of the dread No 12 gate, out approximately in planet Pluto territory, will allow him to bring his run. We hope it does, of course. But there’s still a relatively big ‘if’ in there stacking up in Chrome’s disfavour.
Here’s why: In a renovation in 2006, Gulfstream reconfigured its track, which had the effect of shortening the run to the first turn in some races. For an 1800m race like the Pegasus, the distance to the first turn is now just 200m. This is an extraordinarily short distance for an equine athlete bursting out of a gate to get to a turn in front of, or at least not boxed in by, eleven other runners.
What that has statistically meant for the four outside post positions at Gulfstream—Nos. 8 through 12—is that the horses have to grind hard from an explosive start to get where they want to be. It’s even worse if they like being in front, and there is speed to the inside of them. Chrome has acknowledged tactical speed, which is to say, he can find his place and bring his run, but the outside at Gulfstream is more daunting than that.
The younger ace, Arrogate, likes to be near the front or on the lead too. He is going to have to use some speed to get to near the lead from his inside draw. After the first 400m of the Breeders’ Cup he was 5th by 2 1/2 lengths, so he can sit off the pace but ultimately he likes to stalk so he won’t want to get pinched at the start and go all the way back and then have to come with something.
In a race of tactics and sheer talent, the winner will take the lion’s share of $12-million.
-extracts from forbes.com
Photo: Trainer Bob Baffert with Arrogate, recently voted Longines World’s Best Racehorse.