Arrogate proved to be the real deal in Saturday’s $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, rallying to catch California Chrome in deep stretch and post a half-length victory.

The winner capped a tremendous two-day Breeders’ Cup program at Santa Anita filled with exciting finishes and the debate for Horse of the Year now begins.

“That was incredible,” said jockey Mike Smith. “I’m at a loss for words. He’s such a young horse. He’s so talented. He’s got amazing stamina. He doesn’t quit. He could have gone around again. He’s incredible.”

Trained by Bob Baffert, Arrogate was making only his second stakes attempt and the Juddmonte Farms colorbearer backed up his track record-setting, 13-length victory in the August 27 Travers (G1) at Saratoga, posting his fifth straight win from six career outings.

Baffert has now captured three straight Classics (Bayern in 2014 and American Pharoah last year) and Smith extended his record with a 25th Breeders’ Cup race win.

California Chrome broke running and showed the way on a short lead passing the stands the first time. Arrogate was in no hurry from his outside post, a few lengths behind in fifth through an opening quarter-mile in :23.28.

Arrogate advanced to third entering the backstretch as California Chrome completed the half-mile in :47.15. Melatonin was trying to keep up in second and Arrogate stalked about four lengths back after three-quarters in 1:10.96.

Smith gave Arrogate his cue entering the far turn and the gray colt advanced closer with powerful strides. But California Chrome was still traveling strong on a clear lead as he entered the stretch to the roar of the crowd.

California Chrome reached the eighth pole with 1 ½-length edge but the outcome was soon in doubt as Smith went to a left-handed whip and Arrogate began to reduce the margin. He kept coming with a fantastic rally to nail the 2014 Horse of the Year right before the wire, scoring by a half-length.

“When Chrome was out there cruising, I thought no way he’s going to catch him, he’s going to run second, but at least he showed up,” Baffert said. “Then all of a sudden, Mike’s riding and he’s catching up little by little with that big stride kicking in. I felt like when Trevor (Denman) says ‘this is un-believe-able.’ I never thought he would be able to catch Chrome.”

By Unbridled’s Song, Arrogate covered 1 1/4-miles in 2:00.11. The massive gray 3-year-old colt left the starting the gate as the 8-5 second choice.

California Chrome, who sustained his first setback from seven starts this year as the 4-5 favorite, wound up 10 ¾ lengths ahead of Keen Ice, who closed belatedly at 32-1 for third. It was another neck back to the late-running Hoppertunity in fourth. Frosted, the 8-1 third choice, wound up sixth.

“It was great. He’s an awesome horse,” Victor Espinoza said of the runner-up. “I was all by myself in the front and thought I could save something for the very end. Thinking back, I should have just let him run early but he ran great.”

Espinoza was asked if saw Arrogate?

“No. I was looking for him but I didn’t see him. Today I know I was in trouble, when California Chrome started pinning his ears back, I was like, oh, I’m running out of horse, and the wire is just a little bit farther.

 “It was just of those things. My thinking is that maybe I should’ve just open it up a little bit early.”

“He ran his race, but just got beat in those last couple of jumps,” trainer Art Sherman added. “That winner (Arrogate) is the real McCoy.  I knew he was the one we had to beat, but I didn’t know how good he was.  We had no excuses.  He broke so darn good that I figured we’d be in front early.  The fractions were fine.  When we were in front turning for home, I thought he’d win, because he usually hangs on.  He’s been so good all year long, but it just shows that you can’t win every race.”

Bred in Kentucky by Clearsky Farms, Arrogate was purchased for $560,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale. He’s out the multiple stakes-winning Distorted Humor mare Bubbler and counts 1990 champion 2-year-old filly Meadow Star as his third maternal dam.

Arrogate has now earned $4,084,600.