A lot done, a lot left to do for Frosted in Horse of the Year race
Eight weeks after showing the world how a Metropolitan H. (G1) could be won, shattering records for final time and winning margin in a race that dates to 1891, the Godolphin-owned colt ingratiated himself into Whitney (G1) lore with a remarkable victory at Saratoga on Saturday.
No, there's weren't similar records broken as in the Met Mile. That would have been entirely too much to ask of a colt that is still a mere mortal. However, the manner in which he won -- showing unexpected speed, setting a taxing pace for 1 1/8 miles of :23.11, :46.42 and 1:09.65, and still winning in hand under moderate urging -- rightly generated deserved accolades all across the racing spectrum.
However, in addition to the general raves of the performance in the wake of the race came proclamations from some quarters that Frosted had catapulted to the lead in the race for Horse of the Year. As good as his last two races have been, though, that view doesn't stand up to closer scrutiny.
As one who could never be accused of being a "Chromie," I have grudgingly come around to respecting the immensely popular California Chrome. The turning point for me was the Dubai World Cup (G1) in March, when he took the overland route and still dominated his rivals, including Frosted. The margin between he and California Chrome was a not-insignificant 5 1/2 lengths.
While it is the prerogative of anyone not to give full faith and credit to the results of a race held on foreign soil for the purposes of Eclipse Award consideration, it's hard not to in this case. California Chrome did have the benefit of two previous runs at Meydan compared to Frosted's one, but the latter won the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2) by a resounding five lengths prior to the World Cup.
Our philosophy as it pertains to considering foreign form in Eclipse Award decisions is: a) U.S. form matters more, and b) a win on foreign soil can help, but a loss shouldn't hurt. In regards to U.S. form, it doesn't require critical thinking to say two Grade 1 wins (the Met Mile and Whitney) trump two Grade 2 wins (the San Pasqual and San Diego). However, besides the obvious problem of taking an unaccountable committee's decrees at face value, it ignores the pesky fact that several Grade 1 winners were among the vanquished in those Grade 2s.
As I noted nearly two years ago, there are a net nine fewer Grade 1 opportunities for older horses at a mile or over on dirt than there were 20-30 years ago. Now more than ever, taking into account a race's composition rather than relying solely on its graded status is a better way to judge the relative merits of both the races in question and the horses that win them.
In regards to the World Cup, California Chrome's victory is a huge plus in his favor vis a vis Frosted. More importantly, it once again showed that he is a true 1 1/4-mile horse, while the jury is still out on Frosted. With the Pacific Classic (G1) and Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), the latter at his virtual home track of Santa Anita, on the agenda, California Chrome theoretically retains an advantage over his increasingly dazzling East Coast counterpart.
Frosted's 2016 progress report: A lot done, a lot left to do.
(Adam Coglianese Photography)