Only two 20th-century members of the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame boast unbeaten records. Who are they?
Modern American trainers are often reluctant to send a filly or mare out against males when there is easier money to be made in sex-restricted races, but that was not the case in earlier years. One noted 20th-century Amazon made no less than 54 starts against males. While she won but 13 of these encounters, she was almost always a factor against a deep and talented group of handicap males. Who was she?
This great champion could fly on the racetrack, but perhaps he considered the use of wings to fly as cheating, as he intensely disliked birds---to the extent that he would try to attack them if they came in range. (Or perhaps he was frightened by a famous Hitchcock movie as a colt?) Who was this famous bird hater?
In the aftermath of the Breeders' Cup Classic (USA-I), there is no doubt that Gun Runner will be the American Horse of the Year for 2017. During his campaign, he demonstrated every desirable characteristic of the Thoroughbred racehorse: speed, stamina, an enviable consistency and the will to win. His Classic win was a display of raw dominance in the teeth of a track playing dead on the rail (where he raced throughout), the brisk early pace he set and a stiff challenge from a talented rival, Collected, who had already demonstrated his liking for 10 furlongs at Del Mar by taking the TVG Pacific Classic (USA-I) in his last outing. Dropping his head and leveling off in the manner of a true champion, Gun Runner turned Collected back with crushing efficiency and cruised home to claim his fourth straight Grade I conquest and his sixth win in his last seven starts.
Struggling home in a dead-heat for fifth was the horse responsible for Gun Runner's last defeat: Arrogate. Back in March, when he pulled off a monstrous effort in the Dubai World Cup Sponsored by Emirates Airlines (UAE-I) to run down Gun Runner and win going away after missing the break, there were plenty of people ready to crown him Horse of the World. Why not? It was his fourth straight mind-boggling performance, following his breaking of a 37-year-old track record in the Travers Stakes (USA-I), his defeat of two-time American Horse of the Year California Chrome in the 2016 Breeders' Cup Classic and his runaway victory in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (USA-I).
After the World Cup, Arrogate seemed poised to become a legend. Fate, however, has a way of clipping the wings of a would-be Pegasus, and the Del Mar surface---and, perhaps, fatigue from the Dubai trip---provided the shears. Foot trouble may also have played a role in Arrogate's lackluster summer and fall campaign; a photo by Eric Kalet, published at The Paulick Report, clearly shows a modified shoe and an area of possible damage to the left heel of the colt's right hind foot. Regardless of the reason, in three post-Dubai starts at Del Mar. Arrogate never seemed completely comfortable, and the closest he came to winning was the half-length by which he fell short of Collected in the Pacific Classic. His Breeders' Cup Classic performance was a sorry ghost of the magnificence of the horse who had electrified the world in March.
Would Arrogate have performed better at another track? No one can say for certain, and the question will remain unanswered as he is now heading for stud at Juddmonte Farms. Whether he would have defeated Gun Runner if the Classic had been run anywhere else is a question for the putative experts and racing fans to debate, given the Candy Ride colt's obvious improvement in the months following Dubai. Nonetheless, the one thing that should not be debated is Arrogate's right to be remembered, not for the sad anticlimax to his racing career, but for the brilliance he showed from August 2016 to March 2017, when he could legitimately be considered the best racehorse in the world.
I'm Avalyn Hunter, an author, pedigree researcher and longtime racing fan with a particular interest in Thoroughbred mares and their contributions to the history of the breed.