04/04/2015 6:40PM

Changes pay off for Frosted in Wood Memorial

Barbara D. Livingston
Frosted, with Joel Rosario aboard, wins the Wood Memorial by two lengths Saturday.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin pulled out all the stops when it came to preparing Frosted for Saturday’s Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, and now his next stop will be Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

Frosted, who inexplicably flopped in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park in February, rebounded in a big way Saturday, rallying from off the pace while wide to win the $1 million Wood Memorial by two lengths over longshot Tencendur.

It was another 3 3/4 lengths back to El Kabeir in third. El Kabeir finished 6 1/4 lengths in front of Daredevil, the favorite among a trio of 2-1 shots. Tiz Shea D, Toasting Master, and Lieutenant Colonel completed the order of finish.

The win was worth 100 qualifying points to Frosted, thus earning him a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby on May 2. Tencendur, who earned 40 points for finishing second, also earned enough points to get into the Derby. El Kabeir, who had enough points to qualify for the Derby before the Wood, also could move on to the Kentucky Derby if his connections elect.

The Wood Memorial has not produced a top-three Kentucky Derby finisher since Funny Cide and Empire Maker ran 1-2 in 2003. That covers 25 starters. Frosted will try to break that jinx in four weeks.

Frosted had finished fourth in the Fountain of Youth, stopping suddenly in the stretch after cruising to the lead. A frustrated McLaughlin made several changes.

Guessing that Frosted might have displaced, he had a throat procedure known as a “Llewellyn” performed on Frosted. McLaughlin put three strong workouts into the colt, including a move in which he put two horses in front of Frosted and had the horse run by them. He made a rider change from Irad Ortiz Jr. to Joel Rosario. Finally, he sent Frosted back to Aqueduct, a track over which he won his maiden and ran second in the Grade 2 Remsen last fall.

“We did it all, and it all came together just perfect,” McLaughlin said. “We got paid off today, all our hard work and decision making.”

Frosted was four wide and near the back of the pack in the early stages of the Wood as Toasting Master set the pace, stalked by Daredevil and Tencendur, who was three wide. The half-mile fraction was a pedestrian 49.04 seconds, part of that into a stiff headwind.

Though wide, Frosted was in the clear, not getting dirt kicked back into his face.

“I got him to the outside to make it comfortable for him,” Rosario said. “He was taking me there the whole way. I waited for the last minute to go on with him.”

Tencendur, under Jose Ortiz, moved by Toasting Master in upper stretch, but Frosted caught Tencendur inside the sixteenth pole and drew clear.

Frosted, a son of Tapit owned by Godolphin Racing, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.31 and returned $6.40.

“We went wide, but he was out of trouble and in the clear,” McLaughlin said. “It was a very good race. I don’t care how he did it; to get here first was most important in this race.”

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Tencendur, who lagged behind the field in the Gotham and eventually finished fifth, was put into Saturday’s race early by Jose Ortiz by design, according to trainer George Weaver. The tactics paid off with a runner-up finish that likely will land Tencendur in the Derby.

“I know how hard it is to get a horse worthy enough of going to the Kentucky Derby, and I thought he ran well enough to think he’s worthy of it,” said Weaver, who trains the New York-bred Tencendur for Phil Birsh.

El Kabeir, the winner of the Jerome and Gotham stakes, was last with a half-mile to go under C.C. Lopez but came with a decent run to finish third. His connections likely will point to the Kentucky Derby as well.

“He was running at the end. I watched him gallop out around the turn,” said John Terranova, the trainer of El Kabeir. “He was finishing well; he really didn’t have any strong pace to soften up any of the front-runners. We’ll have to take it all in and see how he is and figure it out from there.”