By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
My quest to pick 50% winners in 2021 is right on track,
albeit from a small sample size.
The first week of 2021 kicked off on a frustrating note
when Eagle Orb (1.85-1) settled for a distant runner-up effort in the Jerome
Stakes. Fortunately, Life Is Good (0.20-1) turned things around with a
front-running score in the Sham (G3), though his $2.40 win payoff left us with
a negative ROI to start the year.
The second week of 2021 is shaping up to be a bit quieter
on the stakes front. There aren't any Road to the Kentucky Derby or Kentucky
Oaks prep races on the agenda, so we'll steer our attention toward thee Tropical Turf (G3), a 1-mile event
taking place over the Gulfstream Park turf course on Saturday. Nine graded
stakes winners have been entered, but one in particular—#5 Frostmourne (9-2)—has caught my eye.
It's been a long time since Frostmourne last won a graded
stakes race. Three years and six months, to be exact. He's seven years olds now,
and a gelding instead of a colt. But it's possible this talented yet delicate
runner is finally—finally!—back on the right track.
Back in 2017, Frostmourne looked like a talented young
turf horse in the making. After posting sharp victories in the Penn Mile (G2)
and Kent (G3), Frostmourne squared off against a very deep field in the Hill
Prince (G3) at Belmont Park. In a driving finish, Frostmourne was beaten less
than a length by Yoshida (a future Grade 1 winner on dirt and turf), Lucullan
(future winner of the Grade 2 Knickerbocker), and Bricks and Mortar (future
2019 Horse of the Year).
But in recent years, Frostmourne has struggled to stay
sound. He won his 2018 debut against allowance company at Gulfstream Park, but then
was beaten in his next three runs. Subsequently sent to the sidelines for 14
months, Frostmourne returned in a Dec. 2019 allowance race at Gulfstream and
finished fourth after refusing to rate kindly off a slow pace.
This effort triggered another 11-month layoff, during
which Frostmourne was transferred from trainer Christophe Clement to Eddie
Keneally. The dark bay gelding returned to the entries on Nov. 5 at Churchill
Downs, where he squared off against seven rivals in a 1-mile allowance race.
And to the surprise of many bettors, Frostmourne fired off his best effort in
Sent straight to the lead through modest splits of
:24.61, :48.93, and 1:13.47, Frostmourne definitely benefited from enjoying an
uncontested lead. But he capitalized impressively on his advantage, rocketing
the penultimate furlong in :11.36 and the final furlong in :12.09 (while easing
up significantly before the finish) to win by three lengths.
It would be easy to view this effort skeptically if
Frostmourne had beaten easy competition, but the quality of the field was arguably
Grade 3 or even Grade 2 caliber. Three of his four closest pursuers were proven
graded stakes winners, and the one who wasn't—third-place finisher Snapper
Sinclair—came right back to finish second in the Cigar Mile (G1).
Frostmourne has returned to train strongly at Palm
Meadows, most recently clocking a swift half-mile in :47 4/5. There isn't a
crazy amount of speed in the Tropical Park field, so Frostmourne should enjoy
another favorable trip on the front end. If his dominant allowance victory at
Churchill Downs is any indication, Frostmourne—with his abundant back class—is
finally returning to peak form. And if he brings his A-game to Gulfstream Park,
he'll be tough to run down.
For the runner-up spot, and for multi-race wagers, I'm
also excited to play #3 Ride a Comet (5-1).
Back in 2018, the son of Candy Ride was a turf router on the rise for trainer
Mark Casse, wrapping up a productive year with a comfortable victory over
future Grade 1 winner River Boyne in the 1 1/8-mile Del Mar Derby (G2).
Like Frostmourne, Ride a Comet has spent plenty of time
on the sidelines. He was out of action for 25 1/2 months after the Del Mar
Derby, finally returning to the fray in a 7-furlong allowance race over the
Tapeta track at Woodbine. Showing no signs of rust off the long layoff, Ride a
Comet rallied strongly to win by two lengths, after which he came back to beat
six-time Canadian champion Pink Lloyd with ease in the 6-furlong Kennedy Road
Ride a Comet has been training like there's no tomorrow over
the Palm Meadows turf course and should be finishing fast down the homestretch
of the Tropical Turf. The pace scenario may give an advantage to Frostmourne,
but I expect Ride a Comet to finish in the money at a fair price while
returning to grass.
Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Tropical Turf?
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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website www.theturfboard.com.