Why I'm Betting Frostmourne in the Tropical Turf

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 years.

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 (G2).

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.

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