The rematch is on between Arrogate, North America's richest thoroughbred, and Accelerate, the upstart colt that stunned Arrogate by 15 ¼ lengths last month.
They'll duke it out again Saturday in the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar, the same track where Arrogate "lay an egg" in the San Diego Handicap on July 22, according to trainer Bob Baffert. Arrogate finished fourth as the 1-20 favorite and Accelerate won.
The loss ended Arrogate's seven-race winning streak that included victories in the $6 million Breeders' Cup Classic, the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational and the $10 million Dubai World Cup. His career earnings of over $17 million are a North American record.
The 4-year-old colt mystified even his Hall of Fame trainer by never getting into the race, leaving spectators wondering if it was the track surface, an off-day or whether Arrogate is no longer the world's dominant horse.
But Baffert believes Arrogate is back in sync as shown in a series of workouts since.
Arrogate is the early even-money favorite for the 1 ¼-mile Pacific Classic. The winner earns an automatic berth in the $6 million BC Classic on Nov. 4 at the seaside track north of San Diego. Arrogate is the defending champion in that race.
Arrogate drew the outside post in the eight-horse field under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.
Trained by John Sadler and ridden by Victor Espinoza, 3-1 shot Accelerate will break from the No. 3 spot and is 3 for 3 at Del Mar, but has never run as far as he will Saturday.
Baffert will also saddle Collected (3 for 3 since returning from a 10-month layoff), while Sadler entered 20-1 shot Hard Aces, a closer.
"It's pretty simple," Sadler said. "Collected is going to go the front, (Accelerate) is going to sit second and Arrogate is going to sit third."
Trainer Doug O'Neill has two long shots: 15-1 Donworth (second in the San Diego) and 20-1 Curlin Road.
Last month wasn't the first time Accelerate beat Arrogate. In the first career start for both in April 2016 at Los Alamitos, Accelerate finished second, a neck in front of Arrogate.
Now, they meet again, barely four weeks later.
"When they run as big a race as he did in the San Diego, there's a little hesitation when you run them back (so soon)," Sadler said. "We just decided to watch him closely and make sure he's doing well and basically right on his game when he goes back in there. Obviously, we think he is."
The field, from the rail out, with jockeys and odds: Royal Albert Hall, Corey Nakatani, 30-1; Collected, Martin Garcia, 5-2; Accelerate, Victor Espinoza, 3-1; Sorry Erik, Kent Desormeaux, 30-1; Hard Aces, Santiago Gonzalez, 20-1; Donworth, Mario Gutierrez, 15-1; Curlin Road, Flavien Prat, 20-1; and Arrogate, Mike Smith, 1-1.