Story originally published on DanonymousRacing.com on May 24
With this year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness now complete, the horse racing industry has started to peak its head out from beneath the long shadow cast by 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
That shadow looms even larger for the horses that ran against American Pharoah, though, as they look to prove themselves outside of their past encounters with the champion.
Most notably, multiple graded-stakes winner Frosted will undoubtedly be tied to American Pharoah in horse racing lore, having faced him four times over a six month period in 2015 including battles in the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes, Travers and Breeders’ Cup Classic.
When asked about Frosted’s arduous history with American Pharoah, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin made it clear that the time had come to move on.
“That’s behind us. I don’t look back and we’re just going forward,” he said.
Training for the upcoming Grade-1 Metropolitan Handicap (Met Mile) at Belmont Park on June 11 on Belmont Stakes day, Frosted is returning from an early year campaign in Dubai and will be running his first race in the United States since his Breeders’ Cup loss to American Pharoah in October.
“The Met Mile is a huge race for all horses if you’re able to win it. It’s a stallion making race,” McLaughlin said.
Early on May 20 at Greentree Training Center in Saratoga, Frosted put in his third workout in as many weeks in preparation for his Met Mile test. Frosted barely moved one of his grey hairs as he went through the morning rituals and breezed easily without making a sound.
“Once the tack goes on, he’s all class,” exclaimed assistant trainer Trish McLaughlin. “He sometimes screams at the fillies, but once the tack goes on, he’s never acted up.”
By earning $2.5-million in his career and winning some of the most prestigious races in the world, Frosted has stamped himself as a top thoroughbred in his own right and will one day get another chance to shine as a stallion. For now though, he’s all business, training for one of the biggest races of his career in the Met Mile.
Probable horses that Frosted may face in the Met Mile include his stablemates and McLaughlin-trained Marking and Tamarkuz, Grade-1 winner Noble Bird, Grade-2 winner Upstart and recent Grade-2 Charles Town Classic winner Stanford. Other entries may include Ami’s Flatter, Anchor Down, Blofeld, Calculator and Sloane Avenue.
“Frosted is a very nice horse. He’s doing well and we’re hoping he has a big year this year,” said McLaughlin. “He just worked in :47, out in :59 and change. He’s a really nice horse and we’re happy to have him as a four year old. He’s doing great.”
Assistant trainer and Kiaran’s brother Neal McLaughlin is overseeing Frosted’s workouts at Darley USA’s Greentree Training Center, a private track in Saratoga Springs, NY, owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Utilizing the private track allows the McLaughlin team to train its horses in an unorthodox manner. American racing is run in a counter clockwise direction around the track as the horse and jockey make left-hand turns around the large oval. Since continually making left-hand turns may be somewhat stressful to that one side of the horse, McLaughlin has recently started to train their horses in a clockwise direction, right-handed around the track.
“It can balance them out,” Neal McLaughlin explained. “Training can be therapeutic. We’re training right-handed to alleviate the stress to one side over and over from racing and training the same way.”
Frosted will do all his training in Saratoga and van down to Belmont Park in Elmont, NY, a few days before the Met Mile. His final work for the Met Mile took place at Greentree on June 2 at 4 furlongs in :48 flat.
His last race at the mile distance was his maiden breaker at the end of October 2014. His subsequent twelve races (six Grade-1 and six Grade-2 races) have been all longer than 1 mile. Even though the Met Mile is a shorter race than Frosted is accustomed to, McLaughlin said that he would not be changing the horse’s closing running style.
“That’s the reason to go in the Met Mile,” McLaughlin said. “If they go fast early like :22 and :44, then it’ll slow down later. Usually they go very fast and you have a chance to close with Frosted. Instead of working him a bunch of times, we just thought we’d go and run in there and then look at the Suburban and going longer because he wants farther, but we’d like to start there.”
McLaughlin explained that Frosted would use the Met Mile as a start for a summer campaign that could include the Grade-2 Suburban at Belmont, Grade-1 Whitney at Saratoga and Grade-1 Woodward to end the Saratoga meet.
Even though there is a long campaign ahead, McLaughlin reiterated about the Met Mile, “It’s a stallion-making race and we’d like to win it.”
The Dubai Bounce
Running in the biggest races at the highest level is not new for Frosted as he’s returning to the United States after running in the $10-million Dubai World Cup earlier this year in March. After setting a track record winning the Group-2 Al-Maktoum Challenge Round 2, Frosted looked like he would challenge 2014 Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome for superiority as the top older male in training. Frosted went off the second wagering selection in the field of 12, but the resulting fifth place finish was a disappointment for McLaughlin.
“He was fit as he could be setting the track record. We were ready to go for the World Cup. We were out of the nine-hole. He was very wide throughout and it just wasn’t a great trip. California Chrome ran a huge race and we weren’t going to win on the night… we ran our race probably, even though we were fifth. It was a shame because we thought we could win and we liked our chances, but it didn’t work out.”
Frosted returned to the United States after that March 26 defeat and resumed training on May 6 in Saratoga. Historically, some have suggested that extra time is needed for a horse to recuperate after the long travel back and forth to the Middle East. The theory is known as the “Dubai Bounce.”
“I believe in the Dubai Bounce… right into the winners’ circle,” McLaughlin joked.
The trainer’s beliefs are based on his stellar record on returning from Dubai. He explained that the only reason to worry about a horse coming back from Dubai is if the horse has physical issues. If the horse is getting the proper nutrition during and after the trip, they should be able to fire their best race upon their return.
The prime example of this approach was in 2006 when McLaughlin trained Invasor to a fourth-place finish in Dubai. Only eight weeks later, Invasor won the Grade-2 Pimlico Special in Baltimore, Maryland, after returning to the United States. Invasor went onto win the Suburban, Whitney and Breeders’ Cup Classic in succession in that year on way to being named the 2006 Eclipse Award Horse of the Year.
Most recently this year, the McLaughlin-trained Lady Shipman finished seventh in the Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai on March 25, but returned to the United States to win the License Fee Stakes at Belmont Park in New York only five weeks later. She ran again on May 21 at Pimlico and won The Very One Stakes on the Preakness day undercard.
Therefore, the Dubai Bounce may affect some horses or some trainers, but McLaughlin has seemed to find the elixir to the Bounce.
“The only reason that we haven’t run back Frosted earlier is because there wasn’t a good opportunity to run before the Met Mile,” McLaughlin said.
With McLaughlin’s approach and history training in Dubai for many years, there is little reason to believe that Frosted will not be primed for a big race in the Met Mile.
McLaughlin worked his training magic previously with Frosted after he inexplicably stopped in the stretch after leading late in the Grade-2 Fountain of Youth in February 2015 and finished fourth. McLaughlin decided that a throat surgery known as a “Llewellyn” be performed on Frosted shortly after the race.
Additionally, McLaughlin worked Frosted three times after the race and changed his running style to become a closer, as he ran him behind two horses forcing Frosted to run past them in a workout. He also made a jockey change to Joel Rosario. All of these changes resulted in Frosted’s lone Grade-1 win in the Wood Memorial in April 2015 vaulting him into the Kentucky Derby.
Looking Back to Look Ahead
Frosted isn’t the most intimidating horse physically, but with his calm demeanor and determination to go along with his slender, long and toned figure, he has become one of the top older male horses in training.
His battles with the top horses of his generation including American Pharoah and California Chrome have shown his mettle and resolve. Frosted now has a chance in 2016 to take his spot in horse racing lore by himself.
With the summer campaign ahead and the main year-end goal being a return try in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita in California in early November, McLaughlin and the team have a lot to look forward to.
“We hope we can get there and keep improving,” he said.