The night of Aug. 20 wasn’t a restful one for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
In the aftermath of Frosted’s devastating victory in the Grade I Whitney Stakes at Saratoga Race Course weeks earlier, some were proclaiming the McLaughlin trainee had overtaken champion California Chrome as the most fearsome member of the handicap division.
That was until two weeks ago, when the 2014 Horse of the Year scored a 5-length win in the Grade I Pacific Classic while barely drawing a deep breath.
“Yeah, I didn’t sleep that well the night of the Pacific Classic,” McLaughlin said this week. “I was just glad Frosted didn’t see it.”
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Since finishing fifth behind California Chrome in the $10 million Dubai World Cup in March, Godolphin Racing’s Frosted has responded by raising his own talents to stratospheric levels. The latest chance for the son of Tapit to answer his rival comes Saturday when he heads a field of nine in the Grade I, $600,000 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga.
Frosted’s 14¼-length exhibition of brilliance in the Grade I Metropolitan Handicap on June 11 was an emphatic statement that his overseas venture had only helped to sharpen his form. While the 4-year-old colt would have had every right to regress in the Whitney off such an over-the-top run, Frosted instead played a sizzling game of catch-me-if-you-can, reeling off fractions of :23.11 and :46.42 en route to hitting the wire 2 lengths in front as jockey Joel Rosario lifted off the gas.
“He came out of that race so well and he was really happy,” McLaughlin said of the decision to run Frosted back in the Woodward. “We worked him back and he just clearly couldn’t be doing any better. We just thought that this (the Woodward) gives us 60 days to the Breeders’ Cup if in fact that’s what we’re going to do or we could run back in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. It gives us options. He’s doing so well and he likes this track and ran so well, so why not?”
Here is your weekend cheat sheet of some of the top racing action:
Grade I, $350,000 Spinaway Stakes for 2-year-old fillies going 7 furlongs at Saratoga
Post time: 5:11 p.m. EDT
Watch: NBCSN, TVG
Key contenders: Todd Pletcher-trainee Sweet Loretta overcame a slow start to win the Grade III Schuylerville Stakes by 4¼ lengths at Saratoga on July 22, the second win in as many career starts for the daughter of Tapit. Sweet Loretta is part a two-pronged Pletcher attack as she will be joined by stablemate Cherry Lodge, a 1-length maiden winner at Saratoga on Aug. 7.
Others to watch: Pretty City Dancer aims to give trainer Mark Casse his first Grade I victory at Saratoga and enters off an authoritative, 3¼-length win in the Debutante Stakes going 6 furlongs at Churchill Downs on July 2.
Grade I, $600,000 Woodward Stakes for 3-year-olds and up going 1 1/8 miles at Saratoga
Post time: 5:46 p.m. EDT
Watch: NBCSN, TVG
Key contender: Godolphin Racing’s Frosted looms as the class standout of the field off his sublime victories in the Grade I Met Mile on June 11 and Grade I Whitney Stakes on Aug. 6. The 1 1/8 -mile distance is one Frosted is particularly adept at as three of his graded wins — including two Grade I triumphs — have come over that route of ground.
Others to watch: Bradester has won all three of his prior starts in 2016, including the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 18 and his most recent triumph in the Grade II Monmouth Cup Stakes on July 31. Frosted’s stablemate Mubtaahij — runner-up behind California Chrome in the $10 million Dubai World Cup in March — is making his second start in North America this year and closed admirably into pedestrian fractions to run third in the Grade II Suburban Handicap on July 9.
Grade I, $300,000 Del Mar Debutante Stakes for 2-year-old fillies going 7 furlongs at Del Mar
Post time: 9 p.m. EDT
Key contender: As the full sister to 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, Zayat Stables’ American Cleopatra had a built-in fan base before she ever made her first start. She has a long way to go to live up to the family legacy, but the daughter of Pioneerof the Nile looked every bit the part when she broke her maiden at first asking at Del Mar on July 31, cruising to a 2-length win going 5½ furlongs on the main track.
Others to watch: Speaking of those who looked like the real deal, Champagne Room was visually impressive in taking the Grade II Sorrento Stakes by 1¼ lengths at Del Mar on Aug. 6, her second career start.
Grade I, $350,000 Hopeful Stakes for 2-year-olds going 7 furlongs at Saratoga
Post time: 5:44 p.m. EDT
Key contender: Trainer Mark Casse called Classic Empire’s victory in the Grade III Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill Downs on July 2 the most impressive effort he’s ever seen from one of his 2-year-olds. The son of Pioneerof the Nile got away from the gate poorly that day, was shuffled back early and looked beaten in midstretch only to kick on late for a three-quarter-length win in his second career start.
Others to watch: Bitumen was an impressive debut winner at Churchill Downs, breaking from the rail and shrugging off several challenges up front. Three weeks later, he showed another dimension by rallying from off the pace to take the Grade III Sanford Stakes on opening weekend at Saratoga.
Grade I, $300,000 Del Mar Futurity for 2-year-olds going 7 furlongs at Del Mar
Post time: 7 p.m. EDT
Key contender: Trainer Bob Baffert has ruled the 2-year-olds stakes at Del Mar over the years and has another contender in Klimt, a 2 3/4 -length winner of the Grade II Best Pal Stakes on Aug. 13. The son of Quality Road has won two of three career starts, breaking his maiden by 5 1/4 lengths at Santa Anita Park on July 10.
Others to watch: Keith Desormeaux-trainee Straight Fire had eyes popping when he broke his maiden by 10 1/2 lengths going 6 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar on Aug. 6.