If you want this year’s Belmont Stakes winner, just ask Bobby Frankel.
The Hall of Fame trainer already has correctly picked the winner of the first two Triple Crown races, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.
One catch: Frankel won’t make up his mind for sure on the Belmont until the horses are on the track for the mile-and-one-half race on June 9. And don’t expect him to give you his cell phone number. But Frankel, who saddled Aptitude to runner-up finishes in last year’s Derby and Belmont, did say he does not fancy Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos in the final leg of the Triple Crown.
"It’s too far in front to make a Belmont pick now," said the Brooklyn native, who will be age 60 on July 9. "I usually make up my mind about five minutes before they walk in the gate. I picked the winners of the Derby and the Preakness but I did it while they were in the post parade. I get a feel for it right before the race, you know? Right now, I think Point Given or one of the new horses will win it. I don’t like Monarchos."
Frankel, who has never won a Triple Crown race or a Breeders’ Cup race, admits Monarchos may not have liked the track at Pimlico in the Preakness, but is more inclined to blame the rider, Jorge Chavez.
"It could be that Monarchos didn’t like the track, but I don’t think Chavez rode him very well, and I think he’s a great rider," Frankel said. "To be honest with you, I don’t think whatever he would have done would have made a difference. When the horse broke sharp, he just should have let him go on. If he knew he was laying up close because he broke sharp, that should have told him the pace was slow. But Chavez was back pushing on him and using him a little to keep up.
"All he had to do was just close his eyes and ride him the same way he always did. Maybe he should have been laying third or fourth instead of trying to take him back to last. Chavez never took him back in the Derby, he just let him fall back naturally, because the horse always gets outrun anyway. But in the Preakness, he took him back," he said.
And yes, that is the irascible Bobby Frankel putting his best foot forward in promotional TV spots for the Daily Racing Form.
"They asked us to do the commercials when we got our (2000) Eclipse Awards," said Frankel, who teams with Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey in the segments.
"We did it in Florida in the course of one day, about 3Â½ hours in the morning and another 3Â½ hours in the afternoon. Everybody said the spots were really good, so it’s nice to get compliments. Of course, they paid us for it."
Still, Frankel is not about to give up training for a career in acting. "They should hire me again next year," Frankel said. "But I’m not going to quit my day job."
THE HOMESTRETCH: Doug Peterson, who trained Seattle Slew in his 4-year-old season after the $17,000 colt became the Triple Crown winner in 1977, on what has to occur before another Triple Crown winner comes along: "It will take the right individual. He’s got to have the heart, the guts, the mind, the will power, determination and constitution, and then, he’s got to be properly managed. Many 3-year-olds get cooked too early. They’ve got to be in prime shape for the Kentucky Derby, but not overdone. A lot of them are over-trained up to the Derby and they can’t get back to their peak form (for the Preakness and Belmont). They just start sliding, losing weight, don’t ship well and don’t do a lot of things well. But there will be another Triple Crown winner one day. It will take one real good horse against a weak crop (of 3-year-olds), or a very special horse." . . . Crafty C.T., Southern California’s "buzz" horse this spring, is preparing for his return after finishing second to Point Given in the April 7 Santa Anita Derby. "He’s doing fine," says trainer Howie Zucker. "We’re looking at the Swaps (July 15). We’ll see how he trains (as to whether he’ll find a prep race before the 11/8-mile Swaps, which offers a purse of $500,000). We’ll go week-by-week and see if there’s a race there when we need it." . . . Bayou The Moon, who won the Alydar Stakes for his third straight victory, is also pointing to the Swaps, as are Congaree and Millennium Wind . . . Owner Tom Metzger, a 62-year-old construction company vice president from Phoenix, had his two-year, nine-race winning streak in Southern California snapped on May 23 when Naughty Hostess finished second in a $40,000 claiming race. He had won with five different horses over the 24-month span before the loss . . . Neil Drysdale has another Fusaichi in training. Fusaichi Zenon, no relation to last year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Fusaichi Pegasus, is a son of 1989 Derby winner Sunday Silence and is a Group winner in Japan.