Column of the Year

We’ve been watching races for 48 years, and we can’t remember a time we’ve been more interested in the next start for a horse coming off a well-beaten fourth-place finish.

Of course we’re talking about Arrogate’s egg-laying in the San Diego Handicap. Not only was he toting a feathery 126-pound assignment in that race, but he was also carrying the newly-minted moniker (rightly so) of Horse of the World after those brilliant victories in the Travers, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Pegasus and Dubai World Cup.

If he suits up in the Pacific Classic as is planned at the moment, it’s going to be fascinating to see if the real Arrogate shows up.

Come to think of it, we do recall another time we were eagerly anticipating the next start for a horse who had finished a well-beaten fourth as a heavy favorite, but we have to go back to 1977 for that blast from the past.

Seattle Slew came into that year’s Swaps Stakes as an unbeaten Triple Crown winner and the toast of the racing world, only to finish 16 lengths behind the free-wheeling J.O. Tobin and Bill Shoemaker.

Arrogate’s connections can take some solace in what Seattle Slew did coming out of that poor effort. After spending nine months recuperating, the dark-hued performer returned to win five of his next seven starts before heading off to a successful second career at stud.

The two losses were runner-up efforts by a neck and a nose, with the latter coming in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park over a sloppy track, where he was outbobbed by Exceller while finishing 14 lengths ahead of the rest of the field.

Including in his victories that year were a pair of dominating Grade I tallies in the Marlboro Cup and Woodward Stakes. In addition to being named Champion 2 and 3-year-old and Horse of the Year in 1977, Seattle Slew was named the Champion Older Male of 1978.

Will the Arrogate story have a similar happy ending? We can’t wait to see. In a strange way, it makes the Pacific Classic even more interesting than it might have been if he was coming into the race off another victory.

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And finally …

Didn’t we have the noms for the Pegasus by this time last year? Just asking.

I’m beginning to think there is a stigma attached to the horse Patch.

Peter Berry, the announcer at Mountaineer Park, had the tweet of the week, asking exactly how he was supposed to call the West Virginia Derby and watch the Whitney at the same time.

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ratzkym@yahoo.com @TashmanMortyS