Arrogate’s Life Unjustly Confiscated


Every morning my first action is to make a cup of coffee and go to my office in my home. I turn on the idiot box (computer) to check out the most important news of the day – thoroughbred racing news.

That’s when I saw it.

Champion Arrogate was dead at age seven.

I was stunned.

How much worse can this year get? Track closings, Triple Crown schedule all fouled up, and the deaths of A.P. Indy and Forty Niner, two of our best runners and stallions over the last 35 five years. A.P. Indy and Forty Niner lived long, full lives. Arrogate was not so lucky.

Our sport is no different than other sports or other things close to our hearts. When something unwelcomed happens, it hurts. Sounds silly, right? When Mickey Mantle died, it left an empty feeling for older guys like me that grew up loving baseball. If you have been playing the horses long enough you had that emptiness in September 1989 when Secretariat died. Basketball lovers felt the same way when Kobe Bryant died earlier this year.

Our sport is filled with as much emotion as any other and that is why it is painful to lose a hero, especially if one is gone long before his time. Arrogate was one of those. The term arrogate means to claim or confiscate unjustly. That’s what happened to the horse that bore the name Arrogate. When the news broke yesterday, the vets still did not know what claimed his life. The press report I read simply said, “It is still unclear what the illness was, and a post-mortem is currently being carried out.”

I have talked to many racing fans that say Arrogate was the best they have ever seen – when he was at his best. I believe he was the best since Secretariat. His 2016 Travers win was so impressive I grabbed my wife and made her watch the replay. I told her this guy was something special. His last win came in Dubai and the way he won that race took my breath away. Gate traffic left him way behind at the start and I thought there was no way he could ever win. What I saw next was the most spectacular race I have ever seen other than Secretariat’s Belmont. He went in between and around horses and, in almost of a blink of an eye, went from almost the rear of the field to the lead. He defeated a great horse named Gun Runner by several lengths and Mike Smith was gearing him down before the wire. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

I don’t know or can explain why his last three races at Del Mar were bad. Could have been the surface. It could have been that the trip to Dubai took something out of him like the trip did to Cigar in 1996. He just wasn’t the same horse he was before winning the World Cup.

The son of Unbridled’s Song leaves us with only two seasons at stud. That is a real shame and a major loss for both racing and the breed.

We all know that the great ones occasionally get beat and they all die. Sometimes the defeats and deaths just hurt a little more.

This is one of those times.

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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