Frosted followed an absolutely stunning Met Mile tour-de-force in June with another outstanding performance Saturday at Saratoga. At first, to this viewer, the 4-year-old colt’s two-length Whitney triumph seemed sufficiently dominant. But, as they say in the NFL, ‘upon further review,’ Frosted’s mile and one-eighth journey ballooned in estimation.
At the start of the race, from the three-hole, Spa top-jock Irad Ortiz, Jr. used arm pumps and a few backhanded slaps to hustle the normally reserved Upstart to the front. This aggressive strategy possibly was foreshadowed by the colt’s best-of-29 :58 4/5 Spa gate work July 22 and a third-best-out-of-29 1:00 breeze seven days later. Still, most horseplayers probably were surprised by the aggressive tactic.
Two gate slots to the left of Upstart, jockey Julien Leparoux permitted Noble Bird to show anticipated early foot. Originally identified by some pundits as a possible ‘Lone F’ or sole frontrunner capable of translating an early advantage into a visit to the Whitney winner’s circle, Noble Bird and rider imediately were informed that they would not see the early lead. Leparoux, who never has been confused with a ‘speed’ rider, wisely backed ‘Bird off a contested early dash and found a comfortable location in second.
Sandwiched between Upstart and Noble Bird was Frosted, the heavy favorite, and jockey Joel Rosario. When foes on either side left the gate with speedy intentions, Rosario maintained his position between them. Apparently, Frosted concurred with this strategy, because into the first turn he was pulling Rosario along, determined to outrace Upstart and Noble Bird to the lead. Rosario did his best to discourage this kamikaze charge, but the colt’s mind was set. Inside, Upstart backed off. Outside, Noble Bird settled. Midway down the backstretch, clearly in possession of the lead, Frosted finally acquiesced to Rosario’s request for temperance and the pair settled into a steady gallop.
Upstart’s surprise early speed, Noble Bird’s anticipated quickness and Frosted’s desire to out-foot both produced a rapid :23 first quarter. Saratoga track announcer Larry Collmus expertly noted the fast early pace and when the clock stopped at :46 2/5 for the half and 1:09 3/5 for three-quarters, his voice climbed a dramatic octave.
As Frosted ticked off those fractions, yours truly sympathized with Collmus. We thought, ‘There’s no way Frosted can keep going,’ and scanned the field for a viable threat. We found one in Effinex, looming on the outside.
At 4.20-1 odds, Effinex started as second choice to Frosted. The now $3 million earner seemed to have a grinding style that would suit a race taking this particular shape—fast early and fast in the middle. Off the turn, there he was in perfect position under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, on the outside, grinding down Noble Bird and gaining on Frosted. This witness fully anticipated Effinex to continue the assault and to vanquish the favorite in the shadow of the wire, thereby adding another notch to the already scarred belt brandished by the Graveyard of Favorites.
But that didn’t happen.
In fact, there were two surprises: First, Frosted overcame those torrid fractions and kept racing toward the finish. Second, Effinex failed as the grinder and instead became the ‘grindee,’ surrendering second to closing Comfort and third to resurgent Upstart!
To add an exclamation point where it definitely was unnecessary, jockey Joel Rosario’s hands, positioned on Frosted’s neck, didn’t move at all until well inside the eighth pole. Frosted had scorched Whitney foes without even being asked for his best.
Often witnesses are swept up in the emotion of an impressive equine tally. However, normally, upon repeated video review of the race, initial excitement and exhilaration are tempered by analysis and reasoning. What at first appears a da Vinci, in reality, is merely a fugazzi. An excellent fake, mind you, but definitely not a da Vinci.
This time the opposite was true. A more detailed examination of the work revealed form, structure, beauty and magnificence reserved for the Old Masters. If the Met Mile was Frosted’s Mona Lisa, the Whitney was his Last Supper!
Going into the race, there was wide debate as to whether or not Frosted’s unnatural Met Mile effort would negatively affect him and cause a ‘bounce’--a subsequent poor effort. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, well aware of ‘bounce’ theory, guarded against it by permitting the colt plenty of recovery time following his huge effort.
Since Frosted has validated inclusion among the top-rated equines in the world, options facing his connections take on added importance. The clear goal with such an animal is Breeders’ Cup Classic, where he potentially would meet California Chrome, who soundly defeated Frosted in the Dubai World Cup earlier this year; Dortmund, who gave ‘Chrome all he could handle in the San Diego Handicap; Melatonin, winner of the Santa Anita Handicap and Gold Cup; and perhaps Beholder, the sensational mare that slipped up in the Clement Hirsch, among others.
Should Frosted return to the races at Saratoga in the Woodward, September 3, and then race in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont October 8, or, should he tackle just one of those encounters? And if so, which one--the former would give him 60 days off before Breeders’ Cup, the latter just 30?
Whichever path trainer McLaughlin and/or Godolphin’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum select, the object will be for the colt to ‘Stay Frosty’ until November 4. If he does, and anticipated challengers show up in full force, this season’s Breeders’ Cup Classic will be a doozy!