08/06/2016 8:58PM

Watchmaker: Frosted continues to amaze

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Debra Roma
Frosted set the pace in the Whitney and still dominated his competition.

Right now, in the wake of his commanding win in Saturday’s Whitney Stakes at Saratoga, which, by the way, came on the heels of his truly awesome romp in the Met Mile, I feel sort of good for being on record as a longtime fan of Frosted.

I really liked his win last year in the Wood Memorial, and thought his fourth in the Kentucky Derby was terrific. I appreciated his game second to American Pharoah in the Belmont Stakes, and thought he ran lights out when third in the Travers, when, despite being a closer, he was used as a pace sacrifice to make life miserable for American Pharoah.

The point here is, I feel I knew Frosted pretty well. Or thought I did. And that makes me wonder, who in the heck is this new Frosted that has taken the old Frosted’s place?

Ever since he returned to the U.S. after an unsuccessful attempt in the Dubai World Cup, won by California Chrome, Frosted has been unrecognizable, even to his fans. He is a vastly improved horse – many lengths and dimensions better – and has morphed into a certifiable monster.

We got a good look at what Frosted has become when he won the Met Mile on Belmont Stakes Day by a 14 1/4- length margin that was the largest in the 123-year history of that prestigious event, and with a 123 Beyer Speed Figure that was the highest assigned in nine long years. It would have been folly to expect Frosted to duplicate what he did in the Met Mile in the Whitney. But what he did do was impress us almost as much, for very different reasons.

Frosted’s a closer, and it wasn’t the plan, even according to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, for him to set the pace Saturday. But he did, and the pace he set – 23.11 seconds, 46.42, and 1:09.65 - was a strong one, even allowing for how fast the main track was Saturday at Saratoga.

But there’s more. After carving out those splits while running contrary to his running style, Frosted suddenly pulled away from his Whitney field after turning for home, and coasted to the wire a completely decisive winner.

Because of what Frosted has done lately, a “Best Horse in America” debate has ensued between Frosted and California Chrome. California Chrome defeated Frosted in the Dubai World Cup last March, and did so decisively. But how much should that result, half a world away, weigh in a discussion concerning the best horse in the U.S.? California Chrome’s two U.S. victories this year, both very fine performances, came in two Grade 2 stakes events – the San Pasqual and the San Diego. Frosted, meanwhile, has landed in the Met Mile and Whitney, two of the most prestigious Grade 1 races for the older male division.

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This is a tough call. Glad I don’t have to make it right at this moment.

Saturday notes:

◗Not all races that look fantastic on paper pan out, and the Grade 1 Test, the main supporting feature on the Whitney card, was one that didn’t. Unfortunately.

It goes beyond the fact that the Test was upset by the longest shot on the board – Paola Queen at 55-1. That Paola Queen was obviously hard to fathom without the “all” button is really beside the point.

The Test was a race that absolutely disintegrated late after fractions that were very hot even for a very fast track of 21.74 and 43.50. The final three furlongs were run in 38.82, which was syrupy slow for the surface, and which explains (in some small way) how Paola Queen was able to clunk along and get the money after falling back through the middle stages like a dead piece.

It also explains why Lightstream, well back early, finished second, although her performance wasn’t that special, either. In light of how the Test set up so perfectly for a deep closer, it is actually points against Lightstream that she didn’t win, and win clearly.

For me, the best performance in the Test was Off the Tracks’s relatively close third, beaten only one length. Off the Tracks went right after Kareena from the outset because she had to respect the speed of that opponent, and put her away with what to be a considerable expenditure of energy. Off the Tracks then faced a challenge from Lewis Bay, who might have been a touch too close early, though that it no excuse for what was a meek overall effort, and turned her back, only to be nailed very late.

This was a game effort by Off the Tracks, and it seems clear to me that under the more conventional pace conditions she will face in the majority of races, she’ll be more successful than the rest of the Test field.

◗If you watched Cupid’s dominating victory in Mountaineer’s West Virginia Derby without any context, you might be wondering who spiked your drink. I mean, Cupid, the speed from the No. 1 hole, got to the front as fast as he could, and then got as far off the inside as he could, eventually running because he was so wide, as one fellow Twitterite opined, about 10 furlongs in a nine-furlong race.

Well, it turns out that’s business as usual at Mountaineer, home of perhaps the deadest inside part of a main track that you will see in the game, where being anywhere from six to 10 wide, even by choice (which happens to be an excellent choice), is better than being in the No. 3  path, and a hundred times better than being on the rail of death.

Credit goes to jockey Rafael Bejarano. He knew exactly what to do on Cupid, and it paid off handsomely.