10/02/2016 9:52AM

Watchmaker: Frosted belongs in Breeders' Cup Classic, not Dirt Mile

Shigeki Kikkawa
California Chrome's tremendous performance in the Awesome Again may cause the connections of some top horses to avoid facing him in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

In the wake of California Chrome’s devastatingly easy score in Saturday’s Awesome Again Stakes, more than a few people wondered why anyone would want to face the world’s best racehorse in next month’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.

It’s a reasonable question. California Chrome is now 6 for 6 this year, including powerful victories in the Dubai World Cup and Pacific Classic, and he has not lost a race in 18 months. And on Saturday, he took serious early pressure from a very good multiple Grade 1 stakes winner in Dortmund while being pinned down inside, where he has never really wanted to be, at least in the past, and brushed it off like it was nothing. Absolutely nothing.

In the end, California Chrome won the Awesome Again by 2 1/4 lengths, but it would have been much, much more than that if he hadn’t been completely geared down late to keep plenty in reserve for his Breeders’ Cup engagement. Now that’s a scary thought.

But regarding the question of why anyone would want to face California Chrome in the BC Classic, here’s the answer: Because the best horses are supposed to run in the best races. Period.

They don’t always do, however. And part of the problem here in a Breeders’ Cup context was brought on by the Breeders’ Cup itself when it created the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

While the general concept of the Dirt Mile was a good one, it just hasn’t panned out in practice. There is no coherent series of races in the U.S. for dirt milers, nor has the creation of one been spurred since the Dirt Mile was first run in 2007. Moreover, there is no Eclipse Award category for dirt milers, nor should there be, because that would only serve to water down our championships.

But the biggest issue here is, the Dirt Mile has acted as a siphon, taking away talent from other, far more established Breeders’ Cup events such as the Sprint, and most troubling, the Classic.

Only last year, we saw Liam’s Map decline to face American Pharoah in the Classic, and opt for the Dirt Mile, instead. I understand that the prospect of facing American Pharoah in the Breeders’ Cup last year was not a pleasant one, but a horse like Liam’s Map, who won the Woodward and was a giant second in the Whitney, belonged in the Classic. Liam’s Map was much the best winning the Dirt Mile, but frankly, I feel a strong second in the Classic to American Pharoah would have enhanced his stature more.

The Classic/Dirt Mile political football after California Chrome’s dominating performance Saturday was Frosted. Many on social media opined that after California Chrome's latest performance, Frosted should run in the Dirt Mile, because he has no shot in the Classic.

That might be true. Frosted, and maybe no one else, has a chance to beat California Chrome in a truly run Classic. But that’s almost beside the point. Frosted, winner of the Whitney and Met Mile, and third in the Woodward after a terribly overconfident ride, belongs in the Classic. His credentials warrant running in that race, and make him overqualified to run in the Dirt Mile, which is essentially a rich consolation prize.

Also, Frosted is owned by Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin. The front end of a $1 million Dirt Mile purse probably won’t change Godolphin’s fortunes, nor, I think, will a Dirt Mile victory greatly enhance Frosted’s already well-established stallion credentials. Godolphin, to its great credit, has always been about running in and attempting to win the very best races. For that reason alone, I would be disappointed if Frosted didn’t run against California Chrome in the Classic.

Saturday notes:

Beholder has been a tremendous three-time champion. But Stellar Wind is simply better than her now. Stellar Wind ran a better race than Beholder did when she won the Clement Hirsch at Del Mar, and she did the same in the Zenyatta. Stellar Wind had the tougher trip Saturday being three wide on the first turn and having to be used early to negate Beholder’s natural pace advantage, and yet she still prevailed.

Can’t find an apparent excuse for Klimt, who had to settle for second at 1-5 behind Gormley in the FrontRunner. Gormley was decidedly best. He also ran his 1 1/16 miles a gaping 1.31 seconds faster than Noted and Quoted did winning the Chandelier four races later, and that after similar early paces.

It’s easy to be excited about Three Rules’s 10-length destruction of his field in the Florida Sire In Reality Stakes, which made him unbeaten and untested in five starts. But keep in mind, he was 1-5 in a 12-horse field Saturday, which says almost as much about his opposition as it does about him.

I’m giving Flintshire a pass for his second to Ectot at 1-5 in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic. Flintshire just wasn’t himself on the yielding going, and he will be expected to rebound in the Breeders’ Cup Turf on the firm footing he is certain to get at Santa Anita.

That said, take nothing away from Ectot. Ectot was a disappointment in his first two U.S. starts, but he set a legitimate pace for the footing and 1 1/2-mile distance, and he kept on going.

Oscar Performance ran away with the Pilgrim Stakes just like he ran away from his maiden field at Saratoga in his previous outing, and he might be a very special 2-year-old turf performer. Still, he had very easy early leads in both of his wins, and I want to see how he responds to real pace pressure before I completely buy into him.

Joking has been a great $20,000 claim for owner/trainer Charlie Baker, and he earned a shot at the Breeders’ Cup Sprint with his closing score in the Vosburgh. But the Vosburgh made Joking 4 for 5 on wet tracks, which he won’t get at Santa Anita. The Vosburgh also made Joking 6 for 9 at Belmont Park. He is 4 for 30 elsewhere.

It’s difficult to be optimistic about Runhappy’s tired fourth in the Ack Ack. Yes, Runhappy was making his first start in nine months, and at a one-turn mile, which can be a difficult distance at which to return. But Runhappy was 1-5 against a field that looked outclassed on paper, and he is a horse who in the past has run big off workouts and layoffs.