ARCADIA (California) • The 33rd running of the Breeders' Cup Classic was supposed to be the coronation of California Chrome, widely regarded as not only the best horse on the planet but also one of the most beloved.
Happy endings, however, are hard to come by at the racetrack, especially when there is a US$6 million (S$8.3 million) purse on the line, as there was on Saturday at Santa Anita Park for the Classic.
Such a purse is catnip for deep-pocketed owners and the Hall of Fame trainers they employ.
Exhibit A is Juddmonte Farms, the name under which the Saudi Arabian royal family breed and race some of the most expensive and exquisite horses in the world.
Among those horses is Arrogate.
The prize purse Saudi Arabia-owned Juddmonte Farms earned from Arrogate's win at the Breeders' Cup Classic, after paying $761,000 for the late-developing horse.
The Saudi royals paid US$550,000 for the late-developing three-year-old as a yearling and parked him in the barn of Bob Baffert, one of the United States' most successful trainers.
How good is Baffert? Two words: American Pharoah. That was the colt who last year became the first Triple Crown champion in 37 years and only the 12th in history.
How good is Arrogate? In August, he showed up in Saratoga Springs, New York, for the Travers Stakes as an 11-1 outsider and left not only with the trophy but also with the record for the fastest 11/4 mile (2km) in more than 150 years of racing at the Spa.
Arrogate's dramatic upset of California Chrome on Saturday punctuated just how good they both are.
Art Sherman, the 79-year-old trainer, loves California Chrome, the best horse that he has ever had and probably ever will.
Chrome, as he is known, came to Santa Anita a perfect six for six this year after a globe-trotting campaign that took him to the desert of Dubai and to the beach party that is Del Mar in Southern California.
His more than US$13 million in purse earnings made him the richest horse in the history of North American racing.
"I think Chrome's going to run a race that everybody is going to admire," Sherman said before the race. Chrome did, too.
His rider, Victor Espinoza, gunned him from the gate and he led a field of eight rivals by seven lengths entering the final stretch.
But Arrogate's rider, Mike Smith, somehow coaxed the colt to find that supercharged gear.
Arrogate got his head to Chrome's hip and then his neck and then passed Chrome altogether, metres before the finish line.
"He ran his race but just got beat in those last couple of jumps," Sherman said. "That winner is the real McCoy."
Arrogate won the race by half a length, in 2min 0.11sec. The US$3.3 million made his rich owners, Juddmonte Farms, even richer.
It gave Baffert his third consecutive victory in one of the world's most prestigious races: American Pharoah won it last year, and Bayern the year before.
But Sherman was hardly heartbroken.
He still loves his horse, the best he has ever trained, and knows that old Chrome ran his heart out. This ending was happy enough.
"We had no excuses," he said. "He's been so good all year long, but it just shows that you can't win every race."