Maturing Frostmourne joins roster of Penn Mile champs
by Frank Vespe
Bobby’s Kitten. Catch a Glimpse. Force the Pass. Beach Patrol.
For a race that’s just five years old, the Penn Mile has drawn more than its share of top quality runners.
“We’ve had some really fortunate luck with the horses that come in,” Penn National director of racing Eric Johnston said Saturday morning. “Some have been pre-made, and some have developed into super horses after the race.”
Frostmourne wasn’t quite pre-made. But after his convincing win in today’s $500,000, Grade 2 Penn Mile, it looks like he belongs with the top runners in his division.
Under jockey Irad Ortiz, who had an eventful day, Frostmourne raced within striking distance for the opening three-quarters of a mile while two and three wide, then tipped out wider for the stretch run and showed impressive acceleration en route to a 1 ¼-lengths score.
“It was perfect today. He had a great trip,” said Chris Lorieul, assistant to trainer Christophe Clement. “I was very confident around the turn.”
“I was in the right position [turning for home],” Ortiz agreed. “I was right there. I know if I got the horse, I’m going to get there.”
It was the first graded stakes victory for Frostmourne, a son of Speightstown who now has three wins and $417,800 in earnings from five starts. Running time for the flat mile on firm turf was 1:35.04.
Frostmourne was followed home by post time favorite, Grade 3 Transylvania winner Big Score, who in turn was a length-and-a-half ahead of Cistron.
The win marked a coming-out party of sorts for Frostmourne. He won at first asking last September and two starts later took the Awad Stakes at Belmont Park.
But his connections — Clement trains the horse for breeder Green Lantern Stables LLC — weren’t altogether pleased with their charge.
“Last year as a two-year-old, we had some concerns,” Lorieul said. “He was always a little bit keen.”
After some time off following his late October win in the Awad, Frostmourne returned to training at Florida’s Payson Park. In his season debut, in April, he was a good second in the Woodhaven Stakes at Aqueduct.
Lorieul has liked what he’s been seeing this year.
“He’s much mature this year than last year,” he said. “It’s more the horse than anything we’ve done.”
But Ortiz, who said he’s been working the horse for the last month, gave some credit to something the connections have been doing: working the horse in behind another horse to teach him to relax and await his rider’s cue.
“We teach him behind horses, and he relaxes so good,” the rider said.
He certainly did this evening. When Ortiz gave him his cue, Frostmourne exploded home; once he switched leads in the stretch, the race was over in a handful of jumps. Frostmourne finished up the last quarter-mile in less than 23 seconds.
It capped an eventful day for Ortiz. He also won the Mountainview, steering Matt King Coal to a comfortable front-running score over popular Pennsylvania-bred Page McKenney.
And in the five-furlong Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup, he steered 24-1 outsider Bold Thunder to a front-running shocker only to be disqualified when Bold Thunder ducked out sharply into the path of 3-5 favorite Richard’s Boy, who was then placed first.
“It’s racing,” he said later. “The horse [Bold Thunder] did get out, he surprised me. They [the stewards] made the right decision.”
Meanwhile, for Lorieul and for Clement, there are decisions to be made down the road, such as what races to choose, but there’s no rush.
The $1.2 million, Grade 1 Belmont Derby on July 8 “would be the choice,” Lorieul said. “But let’s enjoy this win. It’s a big win.”
NOTES: Dynatail, with Luis Saez up, scored a mild upset in the $200,000 Penn Oaks earlier on the card. The Mike Dini trainee covered a flat mile in a sharp 1:34.63 for her first stakes score on the turf, survivng an objection from the runner-up, Party Boat… Handle on the 11-race program was over $3.2 million, comfortably up from last year’s $2.1 million…