Champions and would-be champions have been disappointing at an alarming rate the past few months. Arrogate threw in the biggest clunker. Derby and Preakness winners Always Dreaming and Cloud Computing, respectively, came up wanting in the Jim Dandy last Saturday. Songbird has not returned to her dominant ways as a juvenile and 3-year-old. Drefong kissed off Mike Smith in the Pat O'Brien. In this atmosphere, Gun Runner will have every chance to improve his status in the Whitney on Saturday. But the way things have been going this year, it's caveat emptor.

The highest level of racing has become like the highest level of government: totally chaotic.

Horse of the Planet Arrogate decided to take the day off in his first start after seeming invincible in the three richest races in the world. If ever a horse were entitled to forgiveness for having one bad day, it's Arrogate.

But I was at Saratoga the day Lady's Secret suddenly decided she didn't want to race anymore and I was watching on TV when Life at Ten did the same thing in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Arrogate's San Diego Handicap looked eerily similar. He didn't just get beat, he didn't run at all.

Arrogate's latest workout convinced Bob Baffert that the old Arrogate is back but a workout is not a race. As I recall, Baffert was just as high on Arrogate's works going into the San Diego. We'll find out in the Pacific Classic.

Songbird has been like Madonna this season, still good but no longer indisputably No. 1. Stellar Wind has become her Lady Gaga.

Drefong decided last Saturday in his return to the races from last November's smashing win in the Breeders' Cup Sprint that he wants to be a solo act this year. He dumped his partner Mike Smith right after the start of the Pat O'Brien.

The 3-year-old division reminds me of a line from a Grade B movie of long ago, "The D.I," starring Jack "Dragnet" Webb, Playing a Marine drill instructor frustrated by the lack of cohesion of his latest squad of recruits, Webb's character barked, "You guys aren't even a mob. A mob has a leader."

In the wake of upsets in last weekend's JIm Dandy and Haskell, this year's crop of sophomores isn't even a mob. The five most recent important races for 3-year-olds have been won by five different horses, a pattern that also showed itself last spring.

The most encouraging aspect of last weekend was the emergence of Good Samaritan as possibly this season's Arrogate, a previously overlooked late season developer, who could wind up exceeding the stars of the Triple Crown trail
.
Good Samaritan was off radar screens because he had previously been exclusively a turf horse. Bill Mott explained that it wasn't because Good Samaritan seemed superior on grass. It was because the colt was crying out for distance and the best opportunities were in the infield. Mott said he and Good Samaritan's people were waiting for the right spot for his main track debut and it turned into quite a coming-out party.

Racing lives off precedence and there is a grand one for a young turf horse morphing into a dirt superstar--Cigar. The Travers will be a revealing indicator if Good Samaritan is on his way to that kind of career or whether he was just a one-race flash in the pan, who took advantage of the Jim Dandy falling apart in front of him.

Gun Runner, who jockey Florent Geroux says keeps getting better, can restore some normalcy to the older horse division and perhaps launch a campaign to overtake Arrogate in Saturday's Whitney. The No. 2 horse in the NTRA weekly poll and the No.3 in the Longines World Poll will have no excuses against a demonstrably inferior group of six opponents.

Then again, Arrogate loomed a layover in the San Diego and Songbird had to run her guts out to take the Delaware Handicap against a band of fillies with nothing approaching her credentials.

The most logical challenger to Gun Runner, Keen Ice, will be trying to win his second race in four weeks after winning only twice in 22 months. Significantly, his only two wins since his maiden-breaker have come over a mile and a quarter. The Whitney is a mile and an eighth. He's just as strong a proposition to hit the board as Gun Runner is to finish first but winning is another matter. It would take similar circumstances to the Jim Dandy, the race going to pieces in the stretch.

Keen Ice has tried Gun Runner in Dubai and the U.S. several times without success. However, he pulled Saratoga's biggest upset of this millennium, racing past American Pharoah in the 2015 Travers, so he'll probably be only in the 3-1 range. Not a dime of my money will contribute to that.

Chilean Tu Brutus will take some action off the 118 Beyer--arguably the phoniest number in the history of the Figs-- he was given in the Excelsior when he finished second to Send It In.

War Story comes in off a win in the Brooklyn but he wasn't beating any Gun Runners that day. On the other hand, he's trained by miracle worker Jorge Navarro, who upset the Vanderbilt with El Deal last week. This was no surprise to regulars of Gulfstream and Monmouth, who are used to Navarro moving up horses like almost no one else.

Dean Reeves, owner of Canadian invader Breaking Lucky, who chased Gun Runner home in the Foster and Clark, summed up the situation. "I'm hoping that crazy things happen on Saturday."

That's what it will take.

Big day at Gulfstream

If you're at a simulcast site Saturday, you might want to pay some attention to the card at Gulfstream.

The first round of the 2017 Sire Stakes anchors the program. This series for Florida-breds produced Three Rules last year and champions Big Drama and Awesome Feather to name just a couple of important horses who have emerged in previous years.

Of more immediate importance. Gunnevera is scheduled to make his return to the races in a prep for the Travers. With the 3-year-old division in such disarray. the late running colt is not a horse to overlook, especially at a mile and a quarter.

Saratoga Springs, Aug. 3