Litfin: How to Bet the Whitney
You don't need me to tell you Frosted is the horse to beat in Saturday's $1.25 million Whitney (G1), arguably the nation's biggest race for older males other than the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1).
In a field of six, Frosted is 3-5 on the morning line based on a performance of epic proportions in the Met Mile (G1), where he ran a mile in 1:32.73 and drew away by 14 1/4 lengths -- both stakes records.
The speed figure was off the charts no matter what source handicappers care to consult: Andy Beyer awarded the Met the highest figure since Midnight Lute's Forego in 2007; according to Thoro-Graph Frosted's race was the fastest ever.
So how does Frosted's Met Mile translate to the Whitney? Where did it come from and what might be coming now?
Full disclosure: Frosted has been the bane of my horse-playing existence for just about a year now, ever since the Travers (G1) when he forced American Pharoah through a second half-mile in :46.69, the fastest such split in the Midsummer Derby's storied history. When he followed up with a win in the Pennsylvania Derby (G2), I thought his development was reminiscent of Will Take Charge, and I was all over him in the Classic at 11-1 a few weeks later. I just needed him to run second, but he was a total no-show. Then came similar Jekyll-and-Hyde shenanigans in Dubai -- an easy score in a prep followed by a flat fifth in the World Cup (G1).
James Quinn, the most prolific and influential handicapping author of our time, espoused a theory in his 1992 book “Figure Handicapping” that is applicable here:
“Experience has persuaded me that top-rank horses can compile fantastic speed figures in one-turn miles, many of the numbers not repeated around two turns.”
So we'll see what Frosted brings to the table at 1 1/8 miles Saturday. He is obviously an "A" contender, but I don't trust him nearly enough to make him a stand-alone in a late pick four with a $1 million guaranteed pool. Especially after Mohaymen's mystifying non-effort for Kiaran McLaughlin in the Jim Dandy (G2).
I'm going to feature Effinex and Comfort as "B" horses, and Noble Bird as a "C" just in case everything goes right in the surrounding legs and Noble Bird gets loose on the lead the way Laoban did in thwarting the entire world's pick six hopes last week.
Effinex comes off his second straight Suburban H. (G2) victory (the first horse to do that since Devil His Due in 1993-94), and the last two times he cut back from 1 1/4 miles to nine furlongs resulted in wins in the Clark H. (G1) and the Oaklawn H. (G2).
Comfort is four-for-five on dirt. Although he is easily the least-seasoned of the sextet, it bears mentioning Cross Traffic's 2013 Whitney win was just his fifth start for Todd Pletcher. As well, the Pletcher-trained Liam's Map was a giant second in last year's edition while making his graded stakes debut.
Of course, Liam's Map was run down in the last strides by Honor Code, who, like Frosted, was coming off a huge effort in the Met Mile.
(Andrew Watkins/Dubai Racing Club)