INGLEWOOD, Calif. (Nov. 16, 2009) – Legendary trainer Bobby Frankel passed away early Monday morning at his home in Pacific Palisades after a battle with lymphoma.
Frankel, a 68-year-old native of Brooklyn, N.Y., was know as “King of the Claimers” early in his career and as a world-class conditioner in the last two decades as he developed many of the game’s biggest stars.
The winner of 30 training titles, he is the all-time leader with 952 wins at Hollywood Park and with 917 victories at Santa Anita Park. The Hall of Fame member sent out the winners of 3,654 races and $227,947,775 in purses, second only to D. Wayne Lukas.
Frankel won most of the nation’s major events, including six Breeders’ Cup races and the 2003 Belmont Stakes with Empire Maker. He saddled the winners of 28 races worth $1 million or more, the latest coming with Ventura in the Woodbine Mile and Champs Elysees in the Canadian International, also at Woodbine.
His final victory at Hollywood Park came with Midships in the 2009 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap. A year earlier, he won his third Hollywood Gold Cup with Mast Track, a horse he bred and owned.
As was the case with many of his horses, Midships and Mast Track were saddled by his California assistant Humberto Ascanio, who was with Frankel more than 30 years. He oversaw Frankel’s Hollywood Park contingent much of the time in recent years as the trainer spent time in New York and later at home as he battled his illness.
Frankel’s first Gold Cup win came in 1991 when Marquetry paid a record $56.80. His second came with Aptitude in 2001 through the disqualification of Futural. Laffit Pincay Jr, who had not ridden much for Frankel in recent years, was up.
“This is very bad news for racing,” Pincay said. “He is one of the greatest. I put him up there with Charlie Whittingham. He showed it with claimers and stakes horses. I appreciate everything he did for me. He put me on special horses, we won a lot of races together.
“He was really happy that day,” Pincay said of the Gold Cup. “He was reminiscing about the old times. It was a lot of fun.”
Eddie Delahoussaye, a Hall of Fame member along with Pincay and Frankel, was saddened by the trainer’s passing.
“Bobby was a great guy,” Delahoussaye said. “He did a lot of things behind the scenes that people don’t know. He was very generous, very good to his help. He was great to ride for. He never told you how to ride. He had confidence in you. When he gave you a leg up, he felt you should know your business.
“He was a great handicapper. He knew where to put his horses. He wasn’t a good people person when he was plying his trade. If you didn’t know him, he could be a jerk. You had to know him off the track. He was very gracious, but he wouldn’t let everybody know that.
“On the track he was tough. He wanted to achieve his goals. Whatever it took, he was gonna do it. He had a lot of claiming horses and when Juddmonte came along and he got better quality stock, it gave him an opportunity to show what he could really do. People used to say he couldn’t train 2-year-olds, but he could train anything.”
Trainer Julio Canani, a longtime friend, introduced Frankel when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995.
“This man was unbelievable,” he said. “He had a heart as big as they get. A good man. Very good to his help. No one left. We were very good friends. He changed the game when he came here from New York. He’d claim a horse for $20,000 and run him for $8,000. He had everyone confused. They didn’t know what he was doing.”
Frankel developed ten champions, accounting for 11 titles. He trained Ghostzapper, who clinched Horse of the Year honors with an authoritative win in the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Lone Star Park.
Known as a superior trainer of turf horses, his champions also included four Eclipse Award winners as Female Turf Horse — Possibly Perfect (1995), Wandesta (1996), Ryafan (1997) and Intercontinental (2005). He also trained 2005 Male Turf Horse Leroidesanimaux.
His most productive year came in 2003 when he broke the national earnings and Grade I stakes win records held by D. Wayne Lukas; bettered the world mark of 23 Grade/Group I victories set by Ireland’s Aidan O’Brien in 2002; surpassed Whittingham for most victories at Hollywood Park, and won his fourth straight and fifth Eclipse Award overall.
Frankel finished the year with earnings of $19.1 million, passing Lukas’ 1988 mark of $17.8 million on Oct. 31 when Golden Rahy won a $48,000 allowance race at Santa Anita. He completed the year with 25 Grade I victories, topping O’Brien when Continuously won the $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup on Nov. 23 at Hollywood Park. He broke Lukas’ 1987 North American record of 22 Grade I wins when Sightseek won the Oct. 5 Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park. His final Grade I victory that year came at Hollywood Park on Nov. 30 with Heat Haze, his fifth Matriarch winner in seven years.
Frankel is survived by his daughter, Bethenny. Services will be held Tuesday at 3 p.m. at Hillside Memorial, 6001 Centinela Avenue in Los Angeles.
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