Humberto Ascanio, indispensable assistant to the late trainer Bobby Frankel for 35 years, was in charge of the 30-horse stable in Barn 70 North at Hollywood Park Thursday, that familiar morning phone call no longer there since the death of the Hall of Fame legend Monday at age 68.
Ascanio, who sent out Life by R R to win a $25,000 claiming race here Wednesday, said three nominees for the Turf Festival Nov. 27-29 remain on target for the grass bonanza that Frankel dominated with 17 victories, 11 more than his nearest rival.
Ascanio said both Proudinsky and Fluke would be entered in the $300,000 Citation Handicap Nov. 27 and Ventura would make the final start of her career in the $300,000 Matriarch on Nov. 28.
The Citation and Matriarch are two of three Grade I Festival races that will conclude with the $300,000 Hollywood Derby on Nov. 29. The five-race Festival also includes the $100,000 Generous Stakes on Nov. 28 and the $100,000 Miesque Stakes Nov. 29, both for 2-year-olds.
Ascanio said Ventura would work Friday in quest of her fourth Grade I stakes victory in a race Frankel won a record eight times. The 5-year-old Juddmonte Farms homebred mare will be ridden by Garrett Gomez in the mile test for fillies and mares.
Proudinsky and Fluke are both scheduled to work Saturday for the Citation at 1 1/16 miles, according to Ascanio. Proudinsky, a multiple Grade II stakes winner, seeks his first Grade I victory in his third Citation start. The 6-year-old German-bred horse finished third and fourth, respectively, the past two years. Fluke, a Brazilian-bred 4-year-old colt, seeks his first stakes victory in the United States.
Ascanio said the Juddmonte horses that formed the backbone of the Frankel stable the past two decades will stay with him until the end of the year, when a decision will be made whether they remain. He added that several trainees Frankel owned will be sold.
Ascanio said Life by R R was the first winner he saddled under his name in many years. “In the late ‘80s, Bobby sent me a few of his extra horses to train on my own, and I won a few races,” recalled Ascanio. “But then his stable grew, and things got too busy for me as an assistant to train any more on my own.”
Diamondrella, a double Grade I stakes winner, was supplemented for $6,000 before the Nov. 18 deadline for the $300,000 Matriarch on Nov. 28.
Trainer Gary Stevens, who took over the 5-year-old mare at Santa Anita last week after she went through a Keeneland sale and stayed with owner IEAH Stable, said Thursday that Alex Solis would ride her for the first time in The Matriarch.
Rajiv Maragh had been her regular rider in the East for previous trainer Angel Penna, Jr. “She’s all class,” said Stevens. “She lets you know she owns the barn.”
Diamondrella, an English-bred daughter of Rock of Gibraltar, won the Just A Game at Belmont and the First Lady at Keeneland, both Grade I grass tests at one mile, the same distance as The Matriarch.
Other probable starters include Ventura, Tuscan Evening, Rutherienne and April Pride.
Mrs Kipling heads a list of possibles. Trainer Neil Drysdale said the status of the 3-year-old filly would be clarified following a work Sunday.
Blue Chagall, Enriched and Skyrush were each supplemented for $6,000 to the $300,000 Citation Handicap, a Grade I test at 1 1/16 miles on turf Nov. 27.
Blue Chagall, a 4-year-old French-bred gelding trained by Julio Canani, won the Lure Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 18. Enriched, a 4-year-old gelding who is a half-brother to Lava Man, finished second in the On Trust Handicap here Saturday for trainer Doug O’Neill. Skyrush, a 4-year-old Argentine-bred colt conditioned by Darrell Vienna, won the Brubaker Stakes at Del Mar in his United States debut and returned to finish fourth in the Oak Tree Mile Oct. 10.
Oak Tree Mile winner Cowboy Cal, a multiple stakes-winning millionaire, is expected to head the Citation lineup in quest of his first Grade I stakes victory. Other probable starters include the Mike Mitchell-trained pair of Ever A Friend (Joel Rosario) and Monzante (Alex Solis), the Humberto Ascanio-trained duo of Proudinsky and Fluke, El Gato Malo (David Flores) and Whatsthescript.
Five 3-year-olds, including two shippers from the East, were each supplemented for $6,000 for the $300,000 Hollywood Derby, a Grade I test at 1 ¼ miles that concludes the Turf Festival on Nov. 29.
The quintet includes Al Khali, a Florida-based ridgling trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who won the race for the second time in his career last year with Court Vision, another Florida shipper. Al Khali won the Grade III Saranac Stakes at Saratoga in September.
Also shipping will be another Hall of Fame trainer, Shug McGaughey, from New York with Rescue Squad. The Dynaformer colt comes off a second-place finish in the Grade III Berry Station Stakes at Keeneland Oct. 18. McGaughey won the 2004 Hollywood Derby with Good Reward.
Also supplemented were Northern California-based Sir Al, runner-up in the Grade III Hawthorne Derby for trainer Bill Morey; The Usual Q.T., winner of the Oak Tree Derby for Jim Cassidy, and Blazing Spirit, conditioned by Bobby Troeger.
Other probable starters include Battle of Hastings, Take The Points, Black Bear Island, Acclamation and Meteore.
Joel Rosario has taken a call on Sir Al.
Trainer Bob Baffert visited the stable area this morning and discussed his 2-year-old stakes plans for this meet from trackside while watching some of his horses train.
Viewing Hollywood Park stakes in that division as a preview of the 2010 3-year-old season, Baffert is anxious to see Macias and Indian Firewater in the Grade III Prevue Stakes Saturday and Crisis of Spirit and Miss Heather Lee in the Moccasin Stakes for fillies Sunday. Both are at seven furlongs on Cushion Track.
“Macias should be up close,” said Baffert of the Jack Goodman Stakes winner at Santa Anita. “Indian Firewater should not be far back either.”
Indian Firewater drew post three and Macias five in a field of eight for Baffert, who has won the race a record four times.
Baffert will have a field of six surrounded in the Moccasin with Miss Heather Lee on the rail and Crisis of Spirit on the outside. “Crisis of Spirit should show speed,” said Baffert of the Anoakia Stakes winner at Santa Anita. “And Miss Heather Lee will run from off the pace.”
Both races serve as major preps for the $750,000 CashCall Futurity and $300,000 Hollywood Starlet on Dec. 19 and 20, respectively.
Baffert said good performances in either prep could earn his entrants a start in the Futurity alongside Lookin at Lucky, winner of the Del Mar Futurity and Norfolk Stakes and an unlucky second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and in the Starlet alongside Always A Princess, runner-up in the Oak Leaf Stakes.
Baffert also said Marcello was a probable starter in the $100,000 Generous Stakes on turf Nov. 28.
FINISH LINES — Tyler Baze, who had ridden the last two months with a fractured finger, will be sidelined for about three weeks after corrective surgery, said agent Ron Ebanks. “He had his left little finger reset Tuesday,” said Ebanks. Baze suffered the injury in a gate mishap during the final week of the Del Mar meet…Kentucky-based trainer Ken McPeek, who left four stakes-placed 2-year-olds in Breeders’ Cup races at Santa Anita, nominated two of them for $100,000, Grade III grass stakes here next week. McPeek nominated Bridgetown, runner-up in the Juvenile Turf, to the Generous Stakes Nov. 28 and House of Grace, third-place finisher in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, to the Miesque Stakes Nov. 29… McPeek is also pointing Teamgeist to the $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap for fillies and mares on Dec. 5. Alex Solis has the call…*Joel Rosario* has taken a call on The Mailet, a recent maiden winner on the Belmont turf, for trainer Bruce Levine in the Miesque…In the Generous, Michael Baze will ride Summer Movie for Art Sherman, and Solis will be up on Lucky Rave for Peter Eurton…Kinsale King, longshot winner of a six-furlong race at Santa Anita, will return in the $100,000 Vernon O. Underwood at that distance Dec. 6, according to trainer Carl O’Callaghan. “He had a 98 Beyer in that race and bounced out of a good five-furlong work (in 1:00.80) Tuesday,” said O’Callaghan…*Garrett Gomez* will be in Japan to ride in the World Super Jockey Series at Hanshin Racecourse on Dec. 5 and 6. He and Calvin Borel will represent the United States against 12 other international riders.
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