His name suggests a regal life from the day he was born, but Frost King was very much a horse of the people.

In many ways, the royal-looking roan had been given a perfect name, a competitor who seemed to have ice in his veins whenever and wherever he raced, a Thoroughbred destined for hall of fame distinction.

And while it is not quite the stuff of a rags-to-riches story, the tale of Frost King is every bit as captivating.

His name was taken, of all things, from a discarded kitchen appliance found close to the farm north of Toronto where he was raised.

Frost King was named after an old refrigerator model, but he and his racing career were as much underrated as that appliance,” quipped Tom Cosgrove, who has held various horse racing roles, in the backstretch and as an executive, throughout his distinguished career.

Bred and co-owned by Ted Smith and Bill Marko, a champion trainer, Smith twice offered the son of Ruritania for sale—as a weanling at Keeneland and then at the CTHS yearling sales in Toronto.

The number of takers: zero.

On both occasions, the bidding failed to reach the $10,000 reserve Smith put in place, which prompted him to race the horse under his stable.

While it was not the original plan or expected outcome, Smith would eventually view those moments as a stroke of good fortune.

The gelding no one wanted would come to be worth a million dollars, quite literally.

Frost King won stakes races in Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta and trekked to several of the leading racetracks in the U.S. at the time, winning stakes at Keeneland and Chicago’s Sportsman’s Park and placing in notable fixtures in Massachusetts, Illinois, and Michigan.

At 2, he claimed victories in the Cup and Saucer Stakes and the Winnipeg Futurity. In 1981, he was a close second to Fiddle Dancer Boy in The Queen’s Plate. He had already become a fan favorite and a money-maker for bettors after taking the Canadian Derby, Toronto Cup, Bunty Lawless, Achievement, Col. R.S. McLaughlin, Queenston and Plate Trial Stakes.

One year later, Frost King’s racing passport included representing Canada in the first edition of the Japan Cup in Tokyo, where he was runner-up to Mairzy Doates. He was also Canada’s first entry in the Budweiser Million.

Those efforts did not go unrecognized as Frost King was named Canada’s champion 3-year-old in 1981.

Frost King was even more impressive as a 4-year-old. He carried 130 pounds or more in eight of his starts, giving away 10 to 15 pounds to his rivals. He won both the Bold Venture Handicap and the Bunty Lawless under 132 pounds for regular rider, Lloyd Duffy, and toted 131 pounds in the Jockey Club Cup.

That body of work led to Frost King being crowned Canada’s Horse of the Year, champion grass horse and older horse, of 1982.

He took his show on the road at 5, travelling to Western Canada, where he set a track record at Northlands Park in Edmonton. He also raced at Kentucky and Detroit, winning four more stakes races.

When he retired at the age of 5 due to an ankle injury, he did so with nearly $1.2 million in purse earnings, second only to Sunny’s Halo for Canadian-breds at that time. In 55 starts, he was never worse than third on 40 occasions. Of his 27 victories, 21 came in stakes races.

In 1986, Frost King took his rightful place in the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

Not bad for a horse who went from the unwanted to revered champion.

“The owner/breeder twice tried to sell him with no takers, so he ended up keeping what would be a multiple Sovereign Award winner,” said Cosgrove. “The horse raced anywhere a track was located on both sides of the border included in his 55 career starts. So, plug in that reliable, old fridge. I bet you it still works.”