Performing right up to his significant class edge, Frosted demolished Thursday’s Maktoum Challenge Round 2 (G2) in track-record time at Meydan, throwing down the gauntlet to his projected Dubai World Cup (G1) rivals – including California Chrome.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and jockey William Buick later made it a double with another Godolphin runner, Confrontation, in the Firebreak (G3). The biggest storyline coming out of the Firebreak, however, was the flop of heavily favored Mubtaahij. Unable to muster any response in his comeback, Mubtaahij put a dent in his World Cup credentials.
But Frosted certainly lived up to his. The clear choice on form, and endorsed as fit and ready by a confident McLaughlin, the Tapit colt was entitled to win this prep. Still, he had to go out, follow the script, and not flub his lines. And he went about it in authoritative fashion.
With Buick aboard for the first time, Frosted broke alertly and prompted the pace set by Munaaser. The gray continued to travel well within himself until the top of the stretch, when he changed leads and suddenly took off in earnest. Frosted kicked five lengths clear and completed about 1 3/16 miles in a new record of 1:56.67 on the dirt.
Gold City, who’s been around for a while on this circuit, was best of the rest. He exceeded expectations in this first try at beyond a mile, leaving Faulkner 2 3/4 lengths back in third. Munaaser just held fourth from a somewhat flat Prayer for Relief.
Obviously, the March 26 World Cup will present more of a challenge than this useful group of locals could offer. But Frosted could hardly have done better in his prep, proving that he’s quite happy on the surface and gets along well with Buick.
McLaughlin had originally indicated that Frosted could also take in the final prep, the Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (G1), on Super Saturday March 5. After his consummate display on Thursday, though, the horseman strongly suggested that he would just wait for the World Cup.
Bred by Darley in Kentucky, the homebred has been a leading player in his generation, placing second in the Remsen (G2) and Holy Bull (G2) before his breakthrough in the TwinSpires Wood Memorial (G1). Frosted performed honorably in his two classic attempts, finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and second in the Belmont (G1) to Triple Crown champion American Pharoah. He scooped up minor awards in the Jim Dandy (G2) and Travers (G1) at Saratoga last summer, but looked like a different proposition when rolling in the Pennsylvania Derby (G2). He ended the season on a lackluster note in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), where he wound up seventh. Frosted came back with a bang here, advancing his resume to 14-4-6-1, $2,212,800.
While Frosted paid an immense compliment to now-retired American Pharoah, Mubtaahij didn’t run anywhere near the level of his Belmont fourth. Even allowing for his lengthy layoff in the interim, you’d have expected the de Kock pupil to be involved in the finish of the Firebreak, or at least show a spark of life at some point. Instead, Mubtaahij was toiling from a long way out. Absent was that sweeping move we’d seen from him at the 2015 Carnival, and his action appeared short and choppy as he trudged home a little more than four lengths behind in fifth. For whatever it may be worth, there were a couple of other de Kock runners who arguably underperformed Thursday.
Firebreak winner Confrontation was coming off virtually as long a break as Mubtaahij. Formerly with Barclay Tagg, the War Pass gelding had not raced since his second to Liam’s Map in a June 19 optional claimer at Belmont Park. That wasn’t his only nifty piece of form, for he’d also finished runner-up to Salutos Amigos in the 2014 Bold Ruler (G3), to Lea in the Hal’s Hope (G3) and to Tonalist in last May’s Westchester (G3).
Making his first start for Godolphin and McLaughlin here, Confrontation stayed on relentlessly in deep stretch to overtake pacesetter One Man Band and edge two lengths clear. He negotiated the metric mile in 1:37.37, putting himself squarely in the picture for the Godolphin Mile (G2) on World Cup night.
Stablemate Watershed likewise advertised his Godolphin Mile candidacy with a fast-finishing third. But for a tardy start, he might have given Confrontation something to think about. The inexperienced son of Bernardini is a work in progress, as his fourth in the King’s Bishop (G1) and fifth in the Malibu (G1) attest. Once he figures out his job, Watershed promises to be quite smart.
Confrontation was bred by W.S. Farish in Kentucky and sold for $35,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May 2-year-old in training. He has now bankrolled $518,875 from his 15-6-6-1 line.
Frosted and Confrontation were only half of Godolphin’s four winners on the evening. Trainer Saeed bin Suroor and jockey James Doyle earned a double courtesy of Very Special in the Cape Verdi (G2) and the lightly raced Think Ahead in a turf handicap.
We’ll delve into more detail on these turf races, as well as Irish-bred Ertijaal’s second straight blitz down the straightaway and Roger Varian’s upwardly mobile Battersea, in our next “Dubai Carnival beads” installment on Monday.
Frosted photo courtesy of Andrew Watkins/Dubai Racing Club.