There’s nary a very good racehorse that never lost, and when they do lose, we as fans and handicappers often see the true courage and ability of these horses as they struggled so hard to reach victory only to end up missing.
Such was the case with older horse standout Frosted, the blowout winner of this year’s Met Mile (I) and a too-easy victor in the Whitney Handicap (I). Despite earlier discussions by many in the industry that Frosted was to be the thorn in California Chrome’s side come November, many are backtracking following his loss in the $750,000 Woodward Stakes (I) as the 2-5 favorite this past Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
The son of Tapit broke slowly at the start of the 1 1/8 mile event, merging awkwardly into traffic as the early pacesetters kept a slow tempo throughout the race. Caught up amongst horses for the bulk of the race while fighting his way into a pace too relaxed to benefit him, Frosted was facing multiple setbacks already before encountering the need to pass several horses in the stretch– in earlier starts, the big gray colt had passed who he needed to pass before hitting the final straight.
Drifting out widest of all, miraculously enough, Frosted made a beeline to the front, coming on even terms with the pack of leaders with time running out and was actually in front briefly before the final gutsy rally of Shaman Ghost from between horses made him the winner by a head over Mubtaahij [IRE], who bested Frosted by a head in a four-way photo. Completing the super in a tight finish, longshot Breaking Lucky was just barely bested by Frosted.
All in all, Frosted’s perfect year in New York was blemished by a very tough loss at the Spa by less than a length, which is just far enough to kick him out of serious consideration for the Breeders’ Cup Classic for many.
What? In a sense, this is a handicapper’s dream come true– an ultra tough horse who has put up some unbelievable performances this year and barely beaten despite traveling 40 feet further than the winner is now being dismissed like yesterday’s news. It’s incredulous to think that a horse as mindnumbingly fast as Frosted is now going to be a “toss” against California Chrome, who has a firm target on his back boiling into the increasingly fast pace of this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita.
Of course, even if Frosted was able to get up in time, had a better ride from Rosario, and managed to best his usual Beyer speed figure of around 105-106, California Chrome stands tall with his figure of 113 in the Pacific Classic (I), where he freaked with a wire-to-wire romp over elite company. It all boils down to the question: is being second fiddle to American Pharoah not enough to beat California Chrome?
With plans to train Frosted up until either the Breeders’ Cup Classic or the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (I)– both events he has a “win and you’re in” qualifier guaranteeing him a spot in either– what’s the plan? Judging by his Triple Crown and Travers effort last year as well as his Whitney performance, Frosted is no one-trick pony at the classic distance no matter how highly one thinks of west coast horses. But with a decision to run in the Dirt Mile, he’ll lose some prestige but in all likelihood will be ready to deliver a tour de force cutting back in distance again.
Before we part, consider Frosted’s hurdles in the Woodward and past accomplishments:
—Broke poorly into a slow pace and still managed to close well from the far outside
—Lost by less than a length despite traveling 40 feet further than Shaman Ghost, who is no slouch!
—Loves to fire big off layoffs… if he trains well up to the Breeders’ Cup watch out! This approach may alleviate the woes he faced last year when finishing 7th following a September prep in the Pennsylvania Derby (II) at 9 furlongs
—Will need a pace advantage to dethrone Chrome, Arrogate, and others on early-speed friendly Santa Anita
—Facing much classier horses in the Classic as well as shipping out will present new hurdles for Frosted
It would be wise to not forget Frosted.