Frankel pursues Whittingham
mark, Derby victory

Mar 7, 2006 2:44 AM

"Show me a good and gracious loser and I’ll show you a failure."—Knute Rockne.

Bobby Frankel doesn’t qualify on either count. He is not a good and gracious loser and he certainly is not a failure. The last time I remember him coming to the winners’ circle after one of his horses lost, it was to complain vociferously to a member of the press about the rail being extended so far out in a turf race that he thought it cost his filly the victory.

Other than that, you’ll sooner see Frankel in the winners’ circle after a loss than you’ll see Osama bin Laden in a Schick commercial.

Bobby ignores the spotlight. He’s not as elusive as John Shirreffs, but he’s no Bob Baffert, either. Frankel lets his body of work speak for him, and, as bodies go, it’s right there with every great trainer in the history of thoroughbred racing, including Charlie Whittingham.

Fact is, Frankel is inching closer to Whittingham’s Santa Anita career win record of 869. At press time, Frankel was only 26 behind Whittingham, who trained for 50 years before his death at the age of 86 on April 20, 1999. Frankel, 64, has been training for 40 years and looks like a cinch to surpass Whittingham next year.

He’d like to do it, and Frankel being Frankel, he makes no bones about it.

"That’s one thing I’d like to do, that’s for sure, because it is Charlie Whittingham," Frankel said. "He set the standard and he’s the icon. Hopefully, I can do it next year."

With 24 wins at the Santa Anita meet in the second half of its 86-day season, Frankel is odds-on to do it in 2006-07. It wasn’t on his mind when he got his first taste of racing from the inside as a hot walker at Belmont Park in the mid-1960s, or even when he started training in 1966.

"I never thought about records like this when I started out," Frankel said. "Imagine if I spent all my time in California. I would have broken Hollywood Park’s record a long time ago."

As it stands, he is Hollywood’s career leader with 882 victories through the end of 2004. Whittingham is second with 859. Frankel has made an indelible mark in Hollywood’s record book, including 60 wins in a 75-day meet in 1972 and 13 training titles, six of them in a row (1972-77).

Still, Frankel has some gaping holes on his abundant resume, most noticeably a blank in the Kentucky Derby from eight starters. He was second twice, with Aptitude in 2000 and Empire Maker in 2003.

For the moment, he prefers to concentrate on the positive, to wit, being within shouting distance of Whittingham’s Santa Anita record.

"It’s nice to do things people haven’t done," is how Frankel put it.

Meanwhile, another Southern California stalwart, Alex Solis, hopes to fill a void on his extensive dossier this year: winning the Kentucky Derby. He could have his best chance with Brother Derek, the Future Book Derby favorite who won the Santa Catalina Stakes Saturday by 13/4 lengths in a workmanlike performance.

"Dan and the guys at the barn have done a great job with him, letting him mature," Solis said Dan Hendricks, who trains the California-bred son of Benchmark. "He’s more relaxed now and of course very competitive and moving forward."

Solis says Brother Derek does not have to be in front to win.

"His first race he came from way back and won going 4 ½, and we’ve worked him behind horses and he relaxed fine," Solis said. "He’s not a horse that really has to be on the lead, but it’s just happened that way."

Solis is winless in 15 Derby rides. He was second three times, on Captain Bodgit (1997), Victory Gallop (1998) and Aptitude (2000). Despite that shortfall, his election into the Hall of Fame should just be a matter of time. He’s one of three finalists this year, along with Eddie Maple and Craig Perret.

"That’s every jockey’s dream, really, to win the Derby or a Triple Crown race, and of course, that’s my dream, too," said the native of Panama, who turns 42 on March 25. "That’s what motivates me every morning to come out and search for that horse, and God willing, it will happen one day."

THE HOMESTRETCH:

”¡ Flash! Don’t rush to make a Derby Future Book bet on Your Tent Or Mine.

The Hollywood Prevue champ, with no recorded workout since a second place finish to Brother Derek, in the Dec. 17 Hollywood Futurity, was scheduled to have his first workout last weekend. However, Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale scrapped those plans, telling me, "I’m having a problem with his foot."

Your Tent Or Mine closed at 21-1 odds in the Churchill Downs Derby Future Wager pool that ended Jan. 29 and was not listed separately in the second pool that concluded Sunday.

”¡ Want to win at Santa Anita? Just bet on Make-a-Haul Saul, as in Saul (pronounced Sa-OOL) Arias. The 27-year-old apprentice jockey from Medellin, Colombia, the infamous drug capital of the world, has what is believed to be a record profit of $338.60 for a $2 win bet on each of his 93 mounts, through 50 days of the 86-day meet. His nine winners paid $33.40, $44.60, $51.20, $43, $4.80, $81.60, $183.20, $34.20 and $48.60, an average of more than $37.80 per winner. Through away the Form. Saul does it all.

”¡ Good news, bad news on Sacred Light, who rallied from far back to finish second to Brother Derek in the Santa Catalina. The good news: It looks like he’s Derby timber. The bad news: You had to take 3-1 as a field horse in the second Churchill Downs Future Book wager.

”¡ Isn’t it about time Barry Melrose got a haircut?