SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — For a few strides in upper stretch, it looked as if Frosted might deny American Pharoah’s Triple Crown bid in the 2015 Belmont Stakes. The muscular gray colt wasn’t nearly good enough and had to settle for a distant second.
That was pretty much how Frosted’s 3-year-old season went. Although he earned more than $1.9 million, his two wins in nine starts came against second-rate fields in the Wood Memorial and Pennsylvania Derby. He was always part of the conversation but never the main topic. That changed in a flash on Belmont day this year, when Frosted transformed himself from a foil to a force.
He ran the best Met Mile that anyone could remember, flying off the television screen by 14 lengths. The margin is believed to be a record for the Met, whose 123 winners include Native Dancer, Kelso and Forego. It would have been bigger if Joel Rosario hadn’t geared down Frosted late, and his time of 1:32.73 set a stakes record, anyway. The career performance made Frosted the 3-5 favorite for Saturday’s 89th running of the $1.25-million, 1 1⁄8-mile Whitney Stakes at Saratoga.
“He couldn’t be doing better,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “He’s matured so much from 3 to 4. The Met was fabulous, a ‘wow’ race. He’s supposed to regress some, yet we still hope to win. We feel comfortable and confident that the mile and an eighth is not going to be an issue.”
Frosted is 0-for-3 (two seconds, a third) at Saratoga but he’s 2-for-4 with two seconds at 1 1⁄8 miles. He looks formidable but not unbeatable, and his biggest challenge might come from two-time Suburban Handicap winner Effinex, the 7-2 second choice. Completing the field are Comfort, Noble Bird, El Kabeir and Upstart.
Jimmy Jerkens trains Effinex, a 5-year-old New York-bred owned by Tri-Bone Stables. He’s been in the money in six of his last seven, all graded stakes. Turning back in distance from the 1 1⁄4-mile Suburban might give him an edge over Frosted, who is stretching out an eighth of a mile.
Effinex outran Frosted in their only meeting, last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, so if he won, it wouldn’t be much of an upset. Effinex was second, 6 1⁄2 lengths behind American Pharoah, with Frosted seventh, 5 1⁄2 lengths farther back.
Noble Bird looks like the lone front-runner, but Effinex and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith shouldn’t be too far back.
“As long as he breaks clean,” Jerkens said, “he could be sitting behind Noble Bird. Mike keeps himself in great shape and hasn’t lost a step. You can’t duplicate all his experience, so you just give him a leg up and leave it up to him.”