It's mid-morning of the day that falls smack in the middle of the six weeks between the Pennsylvania Derby and the Breeders' Cup Classic and Frosted is getting anxious.
A holler or two can be heard from his stall on the backside of his barn on the Greentree Training Center grounds. As his stablemates cool out from their morning training, walking past his stall along the wide, long and tidy shedrow, Frosted makes sure they know he's there. Bang, thud, clank. Flesh meets the steel of his stall screen and steel meets the wood of the stall's frame.
Frosted, a serious contender for the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic later this month at Keeneland, is anxious, eager and maybe even a little aggressive on this morning.
Undoubtedly he senses something is up.
Normally the gray son of Tapit goes out early, training at dawn on Greentree's synthetic training track.
Saturday Frosted and his regular exercise rider, British expat and retired steeplechase jockey Rob Massey, went to the track at just about 9:00 a.m. A warming sun is up and there isn't a cloud in the sky over Saratoga Springs, a far cry from 24 hours earlier when a soaking rain lashed down.
Frosted was originally scheduled to breeze Friday. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin came up from Belmont Park for the work, but rains pushed it back a day. With Sentiero Italia running in Saturday's Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland, McLaughlin was readying for a flight from New York City to Lexington when Massey got a leg up and Frosted walked to the track.
The husband-wife team of Neal and Trish McLaughlin, who run the show during the offseason months in Saratoga, check Frosted and the others in his six-horse set when they emerge from the stalls a few seconds after Neal bellows "bring them out." As Neal zips to the track in a golf cart, Massey walks Frosted to the track, then jogs him the right away. Frosted stands for a bit at the finish post midway on the straightaway, gets his cue from Massey and gallops off clockwise. They're already into a good rhythm around the turn.
Frosted gets right to it when he leaves the half-mile pole, clicking off a solid eighth in just over 12 seconds. He maintains the same pace the remaining three furlongs, stopping Neal's stopwatch in :48.00. Not long after he gallops out and starts to walk back to the gap, Frosted is up his usual tricks.
"Look at him over there, sticking his tongue out. He's such a character," Neal says with a laugh, before calling his brother to give him the details of the work.
Frosted's half-mile breeze Saturday was first work since winning the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby Sept. 19 at Parx Racing. It's also his first going right-handed on the Greentree Polytrack. And it couldn't have come at a better time.
"We're all happy," said Neal McLaughlin, who plans to breeze Frosted twice more in Saratoga before shipping to Kentucky. "The groom will be happy, the hotwalker will be happy, the rider will be happy; because he needed to get his back down a little bit. He's a happy boy. That was great."
Frosted won the Grade 1 Wood Memorial this spring before finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Belmont Stakes, both times behind Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. He was third in the Aug. 29 Travers after engaging and hounding American Pharoah for a significant portion of the 10 furlongs.
The Travers was a hard race for Frosted and for American Pharoah, who gave it up inside the final 50 yards and finished second to Keen Ice. Frosted bounced back quickly from the Travers, so fast that it was just days after that his connections started to think about the Pennsylvania Derby.
"Two days after the Travers, when he hooked up with American Pharoah and they went the second half that fast, two days later, I'm like, 'when's his next race, boss? I can't keep him, he's screaming, he's hollering,'" Neal McLaughlin said. "We're going to the Pennsylvania Derby. That decision, we started working on that and pushing that two days after the Travers. That's how this horse rebounds from his races."
Neal McLaughlin calls Frosted a "throwback horse" for his ability to thrive on training and racing. The Pennsylvania Derby was the colt's eighth race in 2015 and he's compiled a record of 2-3-1 in those starts, with fourth-place finishes in the other two outings.
"This is a different horse than I've ever been around," McLaughlin said. "We've been very blessed in 20-plus years in this business and I've never been around a horse like this. He just gets better with every race.
"It's almost like he's a throwback horse to 60, 70 years ago. This is what it might have been like for them back then, when you could run a horse every two weeks and have a hearty, sound horse. We haven't experienced that much in this day and age for whatever reasons. I don't have a horse to compare to him. Not even one, that I've ever been around that has improved through every race."
Massey, who's been getting on Frosted almost every morning going back to his 2-year-old season, agrees with McLaughlin and says he also doesn't have a point of comparison.
"He's an exception to the rule. He loves to work. He loves his job," Massey said. "He wants to be the first one out to the track, but at the same time he's classy. He'll stand and look, wait until you're ready and he's ready, then he'll go on and do his thing.
"Right now his coat looks fantastic, he's bright-eyed and bushy tailed. It will be the same story as all season, it's a tough spot but you'd like to think we're going to produce him in the best form we've had him all year. That's all we can try to do. Another two (works) to get out of the way, it's only a couple weeks and sometimes it feels like an awfully long time but he's sensible. Relatively easy to deal with. Takes care of himself. I just try to stay out of his way, let him do his job and not interfere with him."
While Neal McLaughlin and Massey can't offer a comparison, Trish McLaughlin says she can and it puts Frosted in the highest company.
Watching Frosted cool out after his half-mile breeze, at times playing with his hot walker and stopping only briefly to take a drink from a water bucket, Trish gives her take on the colt.
"Invasor was kind of like this," she said, referring to the 2006 Horse of the Year and Breeders' Cup Classic winner and 2007 Dubai World Cup winner. "He'd do something, run or breeze, take two turns and a sip of water and he's cooled out. Frosted is kind of similar to him in the way he recovers so fast.
"The only time Invasor was tired was the World Cup. That Premium Tap (World Cup runner-up), he challenged him. That's the only time I saw Invasor drink like half a bucket of water and was a little stressed from the race. Other than that every race it was two turns, a sip of water and he's cooled out.
"He's so easy. Just so easy to take care of. Like I said, he eats everything, Rob gets along with him, he's not malicious on the racetrack. Now I'm not the one walking him, so it's easy for me to say that. He's tough in the stall, tough to walk, but as far as the other stuff goes he's all class."