06/11/2016 9:01PM

Watchmaker: Second half of season holds intrigue

Barbara D. Livingston
Creator (left) and Destin should be prominent players during the second half of the season in a wide-open 3-year-old division.

Creator’s final strides, nose victory over Destin in the Belmont Stakes means there were three different winners in this year’s Triple Crown races. Yep. Very, very unlike last year.

But there is a potential silver lining.

Although we don’t have another Triple Crown winner like American Pharoah to celebrate, Creator’s victory does set up an interesting second half of the year for this group of 3-year-olds.

Nyquist, the Kentucky Derby winner who suffered his first defeat in the Preakness, and who had to miss the Belmont due to minor illness, remains the ranking member of his class. Nyquist is still 4 for 5 against Preakness winner Exaggerator, and he satisfied every skeptic when he survived a hot early pace to win the Derby. And Nyquist only lost in the Preakness because he was foolishly involved in an even hotter early pace. Nyquist is working his way back, and one would think the Haskell and Travers could be on his schedule. This division goes through him. Still.

Exaggerator’s position is less clear. After racing in easy early striking distance in the Belmont, Exaggerator gave up the ghost in the stretch, was not abused, and finished in front of only maiden winners Seeking the Soul and Forever d’Oro. Exaggerator’s empty performance Saturday only underscored how perfectly set up he was both pace and surface-wise in the Santa Anita Derby (which he won), the Kentucky Derby (in which he finished second), and the Preakness. Despite being a Preakness winner, Exaggerator really has some divisional work to do.

Depending on how Nyquist rebounds, the door in this 3-year-old division is open to others. And Creator is certainly eligible to make some real headway, as is the horse he nipped in the Belmont, Destin.

Before the Derby, Creator was one of the most improved members of his class, going from five-time maiden loser, to romping maiden winner, to, just two starts later, winner of the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. If you draw a line through his Kentucky Derby, and you must considering how badly he was wiped out at the top of the stretch when he was actually moving well, Creator has a solid record that just gets better from start to start.

And Destin ran a race in narrow defeat in the Belmont that should not be underappreciated. The Belmont was only Destin’s second start in 13 weeks. This was a schedule dictated by his sheet-owning owners, who determined that Destin’s win in the Tampa Bay Derby was so fast that he would need extra time to recover. This is why Destin went into the Kentucky Derby, in which he finished sixth, off a gaping eight-week layoff. And that was his only outing between the Tampa Bay Derby on March 12, and the Belmont.

Anyway, the sheet guys were almost right. Despite an unconventional schedule, Destin almost won. And it really makes you wonder how effective he might be with a more conventional racing schedule.

Okay, so the 2016 3-year-old division doesn’t have nearly the glitz right now that the class of 2015 had. But what this crop might lack in flash, it can make up for in intrigue. And there is something to be said for a division that isn’t decided in June.

 Frosted gives astounding performance in Met Mile

Not surprisingly given the quality of stakes races offered, there were a lot of stellar performances on the Belmont Stakes undercard, such as the emphatic victory by Cavorting in the Ogden Phipps, and Carina Mia’s breakout performance in the Acorn. However, none were close to the level of Frosted’s victory in the Met Mile.

I’ve always been a fan of Frosted. I thought his fourth in last year’s Kentucky Derby was terrific, and I was glad to see him win the Pennsylvania Derby one start after being used like a public battering ram hooking American Pharoah early in the Travers, and racing the Triple Crown winner into defeat. But as much as I’ve liked Frosted, I never, ever imagined he was capable of the jaw-dropping performance he put on in the Met Mile.

Okay, this was not the strongest Met Mile field ever assembled. But there were lots of useful, hard hitters in the race, and Frosted made them look positively helpless. The way he inhaled his field in upper stretch, ran off to win by an astounding 14 1/4 lengths, and stopped the timer in a sizzling 1:32.73, all while barely being asked to run, was incredibly impressive.

And perhaps the most impressive aspect of all to Frosted’s Met Mile is that one-mile is hardly his game. I mean, it might be now, after Saturday. But one mile is actually on the short end of Frosted’s distance range. As he showed in the 2015 Kentucky Derby and in the Travers with the absolute wrong trip, 1 1/4 miles is well within his sphere.

Ironicus ran well as Manhattan runner-up

Flintshire was very good winning the Manhattan in his first start since finishing second in the Hong Kong Vase last December. He looked very much like the horse who was so breathtaking winning the Sword Dancer at Saratoga last summer (easily the best U. S. performance of 2015 by a male on turf), and also looked very much like the leader of his division.

However, Ironicus ran an excellent race finishing second in the Manhattan. Due to many stops and starts in his career, this was the first time Ironicus had the opportunity to race at a distance as far as 10 furlongs, and he showed he has no problem whatsoever with the trip. Ironicus was beaten slightly less than two lengths by Flintshire on Saturday, but he steadied on the rail in midstretch, costing him precious momentum, and he galloped out ahead of Flintshire not too far past the finish.

Start spreading the news. The Manhattan was indeed good news for the male turf division.


Steve Wilson 11 months ago
Hi Mike - As someone who frequently disagrees with your stances and positions, I'm also enough of a handicapper and friend to commend you when you've nailed it.  I was all over Destin, and was counting my money until the bitter end.  Great call handicapping-wise, while also reminding horseplayers everywhere not to give up so easily on horses they've followed for a while.  Good job Mike, and congrats!
Scott 11 months ago
I'm with you Steve.  The only way Creator was going to pay for me is if Destin held on for the photo.  I had him on top of the field in my Exacta Wheel and a nice win bet too.  OUCH! 
gallopingtom 11 months ago
Destin is gonna burn a ton of cash in his future races. He is a no run plodder. Nice horse but he doesn't quicken in the final furlongs. Assuming Destin will go to Dandy/Travers route.

Creator got the trip.

Governor Malibu is the horse to bet back. Imho.
joseantoniocc 11 months ago
About Frosted Met Mile victory. Who cares if he didn´t defeated a prime level group. He registered the best time in the race history, and that is a lot to say, considering the exceptional horses that won it before him. Remember that the best performance ever by a thoroughbred was against a low quality group, it belongs to Secretariat in the1973  Belmont Stakes
Rich Murphy 11 months ago
I had good fortune in tabbing Creator for the win AND the exacta with Destin.  What did I take away from yesterday's big NY race?, this: 1)  I first took notice of Irad Ortiz, Jr. back in 2011, when he debuted at the Belmont meet and rang-up some big-priced winners.  This young man turns TWENTY-FOUR in August - he will be a HoFer before he retires.  He has become an accomplished grass rider, and has justified his becoming my far-and-away favorite jockey.  2) I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the nightmare trip that Governor Malibu received, courtesy of Gettysburg.  Read the chart, and you will see that he had to check not once, but TWICE in the lane, and was "blocked" in between when trying to maneuver past the tiring pacesetter along the rail.  When running the race in my mind while handicapping, I envisioned Rosario getting a perfect ground-saving trip on the wood, and while watching Creator's progress with one eye, I had the other trained on the Governor and couldn't believe how he was receiving the exact trip I wanted for him!  And then ....... Gettysburg took away any chance he had of making the run for the wire a three-horse affair.  Amazingly, he still recovered his momentum yet a third time and managed to finish fourth - a truly gutty performance by a horse who I feel bears watching, maybe the Haskell or Travers is in his future?  I also had Governor in a box exacta with the winner, and that payoff would have more than doubled the payoff I collected, but for the distance of a very long nose the other way, I wouldn't have been smiling quite as much as I am today, thanks to Creator and the "other" half of the Ortiz brother act that is currently atop the riders list at "Big Sandy".
Bruce Epstein 11 months ago
Rich, good comments, well said and clearly spoken from a handicappers mind. But your comment re Irad leads me to think you might not really know the game, as the Ortiz brothers have been knocking them dead for over 2 years. Both are the air apparent when Javier slows down. As Cordero said, these two will dominate NY racing for years to come.
Roy Wilkinson 11 months ago
Sounds like you don't the game if you don't know Chrome was sold and is now undefeated since the sale, winning the Dubai World Cup. Doesn't look like he's toast yet. Leave him off your exotics at your peril.
Ron Rios 11 months ago
Hey when is somebody on DRF going to do analysis on how bad the beyers figs were on Belmont Day yesterday?
ProXstream Gaming 11 months ago
How about a Breeders Cup Classic with Frosted, Beholder, Chrome,  Nyquist,  Effinnex,  Creator,  etc.  ?  Even BEFORE the Met Mile,  I would pick Frosted if all were at there best.  
Roy Wilkinson 11 months ago
You must enjoy losing.
brad 11 months ago
he might finish last in that group, you forget to realize frosted's group was a very weak crop, minus Am. Pharoah, put that into context and he really hasn't done much until yesterday, like roy said, you must like losing, ha! ha!  
john gardner 11 months ago
I'd have to pick Chrome from the one's you listed.
Bruce Epstein 11 months ago
Chrome will burn lots of cash. Please fall in love with him . That gives us handicappers better odds. Chrome is toast, as is his classless owner.
Scott 11 months ago
Chrome or Beholder
ProXstream Gaming 11 months ago
Remember the Derby / Oaks weekend Churchill ridiculous speed bias that many of us complained about ?  Well.....just as I said and expected,  Catalina Red, Sharp Azteca, Noble Bird, etc. ALL OFF THE BOARD at Belmont.  
Roy Wilkinson 11 months ago
Really went out on a limb on that...
Larry Kaufman 11 months ago
if ironicus doesn't get steadied it would have been a close finish. hoping shug runs against flintshire again, this time with a good trip ironicus will beat him. 
Roy Wilkinson 11 months ago
Flintshire didn't break a sweat. Doubt he would in a rematch either.
Larry Kaufman 11 months ago
there probably won't be a rematch since shug is pointing to four star dave at saratoga and not arlington million. there are no other 1 1/4 races on east coast and i don't think they are looking to go a mile and a half this year. with a clean trip ironicus would have been right there at the wire. flintshire was being hit by the whip in the stretch so i don't know about him not breaking a sweat

Roy Wilkinson 11 months ago
Flintshire will probably try to double down on Sword Dancer. Ironicus is a nice horse but Flintshire is a top 5 turf horse...in the entire world. Ironicus has never won a Grade I.
brad 11 months ago
dream on larry!
Larry Kaufman 11 months ago
i will be happy to take your money
Ray Sousa 11 months ago
Well if there was any doubt the Derby day track was speed biased everything that has happened since has laid that to rest. Creator ,Destin and Lani were all trying to close in the derby with no hope. The only disappointment in this race really was Suddenbreakingnews who I suspect would have done much better with his usuall jockey .Mike Smith was hired to have him a lot closer to the pace and the result was he had nothing late. Exaggerator proved he is a mudd lark . He was not training well over this looser sandy surface. And ran accordingly no surprise there. Unfortunately for me I have a anti Pletcher bias in triple crown races so I did not use Destin . Went Lani over Creator and and a few others. And exacta boxes with Lani /Creator/ Seeking the soul. In hindsight Destin was a must use. I loved him in the Tampa derby.then thought he was throw out in the derby. When I turned on my computer the result of the last Google search I did "how do Tampa day derby winners do at the Belmont stakes" was still on the screen unfortunately I did not bother to rechearch further .i remembered Big Brown . So at the back of my mind Destin was a conserned but nothing came of it. I feel like this race was an opportunity missed .it happens.  another bias I have is I don't like to see by turf sires in dirt races Giants Causeway can do both .but to me I always see him a a turf sire.
Joe Rockhold 11 months ago
Right there with you Ray.  Boxed up Creator, Lani, Strad, Exag, and Sudden but always had Destin in the back of mind.  Unfortunately my bankroll could not afford a 6th horse.  Kicking myself for letting Castellano (best jock in North America) beat me.  Should have just tossed Exaggerator as I knew he would be exposed but I didn't have the stones.
Roy Wilkinson 11 months ago
Wasn't thrilled with Mike Smith's ride in this either but horse has to take a hit eventually.
Scott 11 months ago
Pletcher is bad in the Derby and a no show in most Preakness', but he's been really decent in the Belmont.  I had Destin singled in most of my Exotics with Stradivari on top with him in one wheel those two boxed with Exaggerator a few times.  When I saw the odds on Destin, I even dropped a nice win bet on him too....missed it by that much  (------).
John Kostin 11 months ago

I agree with all that Mike pointed out.  I wasn't on Frosted yesterday, even though a fan his whole career, that was a WOW moment.