Victorious trainer Bob Baffert declared he had seen history in the making as overwhelming favourite Arrogate overcame a slow start to epically claim the $10 million Dubai World Cup.
The three-year-old American Thoroughbred headed into the damp 22nd running of the event after days of thunderstorms as both reigning World’s Best Racehorse and hotly-tipped Breeders' Cup Classic holder. But this reputation appeared to count for nothing as he drifted out of the stalls in last place and surprisingly failed to show any signs of an immediate recovery from 12 lengths off the pace.
A sudden jolt encouraged by jockey Mike ‘Big-Money’ Smith then saw him dramatically eat up the ground in front of the electrified stands at Meydan Racecourse, stealing the lead with 200m left and charging on to become the highest-earning horse on record at more than $17m.
For the experienced Baffert, now a three-time World Cup winner, runner-up Gun Runner and third-placed Neolithic were left in the wake of an incredible competitor who was “stamping his legacy”.
“When he missed the break, I thought ‘boy, maybe I shouldn’t have brought him, maybe he’s tired?’,” said the overjoyed 64-year-old, who previously triumphed with Silver Charm and Captain Steve in the UAE. “All these things go through your mind.
“He is this great horse and was dead last. Then down the back side, I didn’t know if he was in the running or not.
“Mike was on the outside and I thought he’d take care of him. He started making a little move and I got some hope.
“Then he turned for home. I told my wife: ‘if he wins this race, he’ll be the most incredible horse I’ve ever seen’.
“And there he went. He has that long stride and he sees a target coming up.
“It was like watching the movie, ‘Seabiscuit’. It was like a Hollywood type of finish.
“It was incredible that this horse came here, on a long shift. I didn’t know if he’d be on his ‘Super-A game’, but in the last few days he’s been training well.
“Mike Smith, ‘Big-Money Mike’, was sitting back there and he just let the horse gather himself. He is still a big kid, learning how to run.
“He can go in the lead, he can be last, he is just incredible. I think what we saw today was him stamping his legacy, how incredible is this horse?”
Smith, 51, has saddled Arrogate since August. The Travers Stakes, Breeders’ Cup, Pegasus World Cup and now the Dubai World Cup have been added in this time.
He said: “I had so much confidence in him, once he levelled off and he just moved a little he jumped ahead. When he did that, I thought: ‘we’re still here.’
“I actually geared him down a little, as I didn’t want him to hit the front and start looking around. When I called on him when heading for home, he just took off - he’s incredible.”
It was not just the winning party who were left in awe by Arrogate’s turbo-charged recovery.
Florent Geroux, rider of runner-up Gun Runner, said: "I was travelling as well as I could have hoped turning in and thought we had a great chance of victory until Arrogate arrived and he was just awesome."