SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Despite its hefty $1.25 million purse and the allure of a fees-paid berth into the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in the fall, Saturday’s Grade 1 Whitney Stakes at Saratoga drew only a six-horse field.
Perhaps the presence of Frosted has something to do with that.
Frosted put forth arguably the best performance by any horse this year when he set records for time and margin of victory winning the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on June 11 at Belmont Park. Frosted won the Met Mile by 14 1/4 lengths and his time of 1:32.73 was the fastest mile in the 123 runnings of the race.
“If he runs back to that, we’re all running for second money,” said Rick Violette, trainer of Whitney contender Upstart, beaten 15 1/4 lengths when third in the Met Mile. “But the odds are he won’t run back to that. But he can revert and run his normal ‘A’ race and still win, too. We have to step up.”
Frosted, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin for Godolphin Racing, drew post 4 and was made the 3-5 morning-line favorite by Saratoga line-maker Travis Stone. Effinex, winner of the Grade 2 Suburban on July 9, drew post 6 and was made the second choice at 7-2.
Others entered include El Kabeir (post 1, 20-1), Comfort (post 2, 8-1), Upstart (post 3, 10-1) and Noble Bird (post 5, 10-1).
The Whitney is “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic to be run Nov. 5 at Santa Anita.
Though Frosted was magnificent winning the Met Mile around one turn, his two previous graded stakes wins came in races run at 1 1/8 miles around two turns. Last year, at 3, Frosted won the Grade 1 Wood Memorial and Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby, though both victories came against modest fields.
“We feel comfortable and confident the mile and an eighth is not going to be an issue,” McLaughlin said at the draw held Tuesday night at Sperry’s, a downtown Saratoga Springs restaurant.
Frosted has yet to win at Saratoga, finishing second in a maiden race at 2, second in the Jim Dandy, and third in the Travers last year. In the Travers, he pressed American Pharoah, tactics that were employed by jockey Jose Lezcano, who only picked up the mount when regular rider Joel Rosario was injured in a spill earlier on the card.
Rosario has a 3-2-0 record on Frosted from seven rides.
Effinex finished ahead of Frosted the only time the two faced each other. That was in the Breeders’ Cup Classic when Effinex finished second, 6 1/2 lengths behind American Pharoah, while Frosted was seventh, 6 1/4 lengths behind Effinex.
Effinex finished fourth in last year’s Woodward at Saratoga.
Noble Bird finished last in the 2015 Whitney. He does look like the primary speed in this year’s edition.
“It would appear that way,” trainer Mark Casse said.