Frosted back in his sweet spot in Aqueduct's Wood Memorial

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

April 4th, 2015

Godolphin Racing's Frosted earned his way back into Kentucky Derby (G1) calculations with a two-length victory in Saturday's $985,000 Wood Memorial (G1) at perhaps his favorite racetrack, Aqueduct.

Under Joel Rosario, the 2-1 shot closed from off the pace and defeated 21-1 Tencendur by two lengths in a final time of 1:50 1/5 for 1 1/8 miles on the fast track. El Kabeir finished third, and Daredevil, the slight 2-1 favorite, a weary fourth.

This haul of 100 points (for a total of 113) has secured Frosted a spot in the Derby field, but the blueblood will have to up his game again to pose a win threat at Churchill Downs.

The Kiaran McLaughlin pupil had concluded his juvenile campaign with two strong efforts at the Big A. After romping by 5 1/4 lengths in a one-mile maiden, he finished an honorable second in the Remsen (G2), where he endured a wide trip from post 13 and fell a scant half-length short.

Frosted lost something of that late fall luster, however, once he shifted tack to Gulfstream Park. In the January 24 Holy Bull (G2), he was comprehensively outpointed by Upstart. Frosted added blinkers for the rematch in the February 21 Fountain of Youth (G2), but arguing the pace on that tiring surface took its toll. Despite sitting pretty swinging for home, he gave way abruptly and finished fourth, again soundly beaten by Upstart (who was subsequently demoted to second for interference).

That left Frosted at a crossroads as a Derby contender, but two key factors combined to spark a turnaround: he reportedly underwent minor throat surgery to correct a breathing issue, and he shook Gulfstream's dust off his feet, so to speak, in favor of a return to Aqueduct.

Aside from the fact that Frosted likes Aqueduct -- now the scene of both of his career wins -- it should also be pointed out that by going to the Wood, he thereby swerved the elite contenders in the other final preps. A tilt at the Florida Derby (G1) would have meant a third consecutive race against Upstart, while Carpe Diem loomed menacingly in the Blue Grass (G1), not to mention Bob Baffert's dynamic duo of Dortmund in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and American Pharoah in next Saturday's Arkansas Derby (G1). The Wood represented the best opportunity for Frosted to punch his Derby ticket, and McLaughlin cleverly spotted him there.

A glance at his Wood competition reinforces the point. Tencendur had only been fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Withers (G3) and Gotham (G3). That hardly nominated him as a threat in the Wood, but attending the slow early pace with new rider Jose Ortiz helped him almost to pull off the upset.

El Kabeir has been a valiant warrior all winter at Aqueduct, winning the Jerome (G3) and Gotham and finishing an honorable second in the Withers. While that resume made him a top candidate to round out the series in the Wood, it didn't mark him out as a leading Derby hopeful. And he did little to alter that impression by winding up a belated third here, beaten a total of 5 3/4 lengths.

Daredevil of course brought fine two-year-old form as the winner of the Champagne (G1) over Upstart last October. But the two have gone in different directions since, and Daredevil entered this with something to prove over a route of ground. The Todd Pletcher trainee had every chance, but wilted down the lane and now appears better suited to one turn.

Frosted has a great pedigree as a son of Tapit and the Grade 2-winning Deputy Minister mare Fast Cookie, herself a half-sister to champion Midshipman. The gray is entitled to keep progressing from here, with the main question being whether he can bridge the gap with the top-tier Derby runners.

Frosted photo credit: NYRA/Adam Coglianese/Chelsea Durand.