Today’s feature at Saratoga is the GR 1 Whitney Stakes, and features a solid group of talented runners competing at 1 1/8 Mile. The standout in the field is Frosted, who posted a jaw-dropping -3.8 Best in his last race, as he demolished 9 competitors in the GR 1 Met Mile by an astonishing 14 lengths in one of the most dominating performances I have ever seen. A few years ago Quality Road chalked up Numbers close to what Frostedposted in the Met Mile, and then he tailed off as the distances increased. There is also the chance of a bounce after such a freakish performance, but if he runs anywhere near that -3.8, the real race is for second. In post position order:
1. 20-1 El Kabeir : 4.4 Best. Slight Circle Back pattern. He has been competing in top company, but usually finishes up the track. He did run a respectable 4th last out in a GR 1 at Keeneland, but his Numbers are modest for this group. Decent connections. Will need a big step forward.
2. 8-1 Comfort: 2.9 Best. Marching pattern. This guy shows the epitome of the Marching pattern, as he has improved in every start, including a big improvement to that 2.9 Best in a Big Win in a NY bred Stakes at Belmont. Pletcher and Velazquez are excellent connections, and I love improving lightly-raced horses. If Frosted were not in the race, Comfort would be my top choice. I expect him to run well!
3. 10-1 Upstart: 4.7 Best. Even pattern. Upstart seems to run a solid Number in the low 5’s nearly every time he runs. In general this is a fast Number, but it is slow against these. Solid connections. He will need the race of his life.
4. 3-5 Frosted: -3.8. Best. Leaped to his Best. Actually that incredible last race Number appears to be a Rest then Best, as it came after a 2 ½ month layoff. Frosted had 2 races earlier in 2016 in Dubai, where we do not have figs; however it appears likely to me that the first may have also been a Rest then Best, after which he appears to have regressed some in chasing California Chrome. A review of Frosted’s long term pattern is a thing of beauty, with steadily improving Numbers, with the exception of last year’s BC Classic. To put that last race Number in perspective, it is nearly 6 points faster than any other horse in this race has ever run. Excellent connections and I love that he has been given nearly 2 months to recoup. There is always the chance for a bounce, but right now, I consider Frosted to be the best middle distance horse running. Clearly the one to beat!!!
5. 10-1 Noble Bird: 2.7 Best. Fading pattern. His Numbers are in a general decline, although he may be able to grab a lonely lead, which is almost always dangerous, as he showed in wiring a GR 1 field at Keeneland last year. Very good connections. It looks to me like there will be at least token pressure, and he does not look like an improving horse. Figures to lead them for a long way.
6. 7-2 Effinex: 2.0 Best. Slight fade. Here is the second fave, and based on accomplishments, he is the most likely to threaten Frosted. He has won a GR 1, several GR 2’s, and ran 2nd behind American Pharoah in last year’s BC Classic. I consider him to be as tough as nails, and I am a huge fan of trainer Jerkins and rider Mike Smith. If the top one falters, Effinex is Very Dangerous!
Clearly this is Frosted’s race to lose. I expect Comfort to run well and Effinex usually runs a solid race.