Arrogate – Is he really the greatest racehorse since Secretariat?


March 27th 2017

In a post-race interview, trainer Bob Baffert called Dubai World Cup winner Arrogate “the greatest racehorse since Secretariat.” At that moment, I wasn’t prepared to disagree. That is quite a statement but Bob Baffert IS one of the greatest trainers in the world. 

Now that I have had more time to think about this, I think Arrogate could possibly be the greatest racehorse on dirt since Secretariat. He is the #1 ranked horse in the world and he confirmed his ranking with his brilliant come from behind win in the Dubai World Cup. With the Dubai win, Arrogate is also the highest earning racehorse in North American history with over $17 million in career winnings.

For comparison purposes, I prepared career summaries of Arrogate along with four other horses that I generally feel were the best since Secretariat. These are Triple Crown winners Seattle Slew, Affirmed and American Pharoah as well as Spectacular Bid who came up short on his Triple Crown bid. No I didn’t forget about Forego, John Henry, Ghostzapper, Curlin, Zenyatta and a number of other great horses we have seen since 1973. I just feel the four horses below generally are considered to be best since Secretariat was retired.

Among the pertinent stats, I have listed each horses career earnings and also provided an inflation adjustment conversion into 2017 dollars. I used the year each horse retired as a starting point for the inflation adjustment. Obviously, there is no inflation adjustment necessary for Arrogate.

Arrogate  – In 2016, he was the Breeders’ Cup Classic champion, 3-year-old American Male Champion and IFHA World’s Best Racehorse. 2017 Pegasus World Cup and 2017 Dubai World Cup.

Career: 8 Starts 7-0-0-0 (87.5% win percentage – 4 Grade 1 wins)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:46.83 – 2017 Pegasus World Cup
Best 1 1/4th Mile Time: 1:59.36 – 2016 Travers Stakes
Best 1 1/2th Mile Time: N/A
Career Earnings: $17,084,600
Earnings per start in 2017 dollars: $2,135,575

The Four Best Racehorses Since Secretariat

In chronological order

Seattle Slew* 1977 Triple Crown Champion and Horse of the Year. The only Triple Crown winner to finish the series undefeated. He beat 1978 Triple Crown Champion Affirmed and three-time Horse of the Year Forego in the 1978 Marlboro Cup Invitational. He also finished ahead of Affirmed in the 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup. Bio Video

Career: 17 Starts 14-2-0-1 (82.4% win percentage – 8 Grade 1 wins)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:45.801979 Marlboro Cup Invitational Handicap
Best 1 1/4th Mile Time: 1:58.60 – 1978 Woodward Stakes
Best 1 1/2th Mile Time: 2:27.21* (estimate-lost by a nose) – 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup
Career Earnings: $1,208,276 ($4,515,412 in 2017 dollars)
Earnings per start in 2017 dollars: $265,612

Affirmed* 1978 Triple Crown Champion, 22 wins in 29 career starts. Finished in the Top 3 in all but one start. Horse of the Year in 1978 and 1979. Bio Video

Career: 29 Starts 22-5-1-0 (75.9% win percentage – 14 Grade 1 wins)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.80 – 1978 Jim Dandy Stakes
Best 1 1/4th Mile Time: 1:58.40 – 1979 Hollywood Gold Cup
Best 1 1/2th Mile Time: 2:26.80 – 1978 Belmont Stakes
Career Earnings: $2,393,818 ($8,032,249 in 2017 dollars)
Earnings per start in 2017 dollars: $276,974

Spectacular Bid Eight times in his career he either matched or set a track record. He holds the North American record for 1 1/4 mile races on dirt with a time of 1:57 4/5. He was the last horse to be named American male dirt champion at age 2, 3 and 4. He won Horse of the Year honors in 1980. He may have won a Triple Crown in 1979 had he not stepped on a safety pin at Belmont. Bio Video

Career: 30 Starts 26-2-1-1 (86.7% win percentage – 12 Grade 1 wins)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:45.801980 California Stakes
Best 1 1/4th Mile Time: 1:57.801980 Charles H. Strub Stakes
Best 1 1/2th Mile Time: 2:27.40 – 1979 Jockey Club Gold Cup
Career Earnings: $2,781,608 ($8,223,398 in 2017 dollars)
Earnings per start in 2017 dollars: $274,113

American Pharoah 2015 Triple Crown Champion, the very first winner of the Grand Slam of Thoroughbred Racing. American Champion 2-Year-Old Male (2014) and American Champion 3-Year-Old Male (2015), 2015 Horse of the Year and IFHA World’s Best Racehorse in 2015. Since most Triple Crown winners and even those who nearly miss are immediately retired to the stud farm, you have to project out how you think they would fare in the future. Considering that he produced a career best Beyer Speed Figure of 120 in his last start in Breeders’ Cup Classic, I think he would have been even better as a 4 year-old.

Career: 11 Starts 9-1-0-0 (81.8% win percentage – 8 Grade 1 wins)
Best 1 1/8th Mile Time: 1:47.95 – 2015 Haskell Invitational
Best 1 1/4th Mile Time: 2:00.07 – 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Best 1 1/2th Mile Time: 2:26.652015 Belmont Stakes
Career Earnings: $8,650,300 ($8,890,666 in 2017 dollars)
Earnings per start in 2017 dollars: $808,242

*-indicates Triple Crown Winner

The Verdict

I don’t believe that Arrogate can be considered as the best racehorse since Secretariat at this point. He is certainly talented enough and could very well be when all is said and done. However, we still need to see more. All the above horses have won at least eight Grade 1 races, Arrogate has four Grade 1 wins. Arrogate was a late bloomer, his legs needed time to catch up to his big body much like Zenyatta. Therefore he didn’t go through the rigors of a Triple Crown run–something I highly value in determining greatness in a thoroughbred– because he wasn’t physically mature enough.

Unfortunately, I doubt that we will ever see Arrogate run a 1 1/2 mile (12 furlong) race due to a insufficient purse sizes. The Brooklyn Invitational at Belmont in June would be Arrogate’s best bet but it only carries a $400,000 purse. So probably will never be able to compare him at the 12 furlong distance to Secretariat and other greats who raced in the Belmont Stakes.

Last year, Arrogate won the IHFA Best Racehorse in the world but lost to California Chrome North American Horse of the Year honors. American Pharoah, whom Baffert trained, was able to win both awards in 2015 and the very first Grand Slam of Thoroughbred racing.

Overall, I would rank Arrogate in the Top 20 greatest North American racehorses of all-time right now due to the simple fact that he is the highest earning racehorse in North American history. However, Arrogate still has more work to do to be considered the greatest since Secretariat. His times through 9 and 10 furlongs don’t rival Seattle Slew or Spectacular Bid. I think he needs to win at least four more Grade 1 races as all the above four horses have accomplished. He also needs to sweep Horse of the Year honors in 2017. 

For now, its plenty OK to just be the best racehorse in the world. And the sport of horse racing in North America has been extremely blessed to have great horses like Arrogate, American Pharoah, California Chrome and Songbird the past few years. Arrogate’s future race entries will make it an extremely interesting year after the Triple Crown races are over.