In this corner, wearing black trunks, seeking his fifth Eclipse Award overall as the nation’s top trainer and his fourth in a row, with a record 23 Grade I stakes wins this year and with record purse earnings for the year of nearly $18 million, from Brooklyn, New York, Bobby Fraaaankel! Fraaaaankel!
And in this corner, wearing white trunks, seeking his first Eclipse Award after winning a record four Breeders’ Cup races in a single day, and with purse earnings this year of just over $9 million, from Altadena, California, Richard Maaaandella! Maaaandella!
If this were a popularity contest, it would be no contest. Mandella by unanimous decision. Frankel is Frankel. Brusque, boorish, challenging, intimidating. Mandella is Mandella. Benign, civil, frank, thoughtful. Mandella is Mr. Rogers; Frankel, Don Rickles. If they were cartoon characters, Mandella would be Casper, Frankel Yosemite Sam.
The Eclipse Award winner will be selected at year’s end by a vote of turf writers, racing secretaries and the Daily Racing Form. Personalties aside, it should come down to this: Frankel’s sensational year vs. Mandella’s unprecedented day.
Here’s a random sampling of opinions from horsemen at Santa Anita:
DAVID HOFMANS, trainer of Adoration, 40-1 upset winner of the Distaff: "It’s a tough one. Frankel’s won all those Grade I’s. I’d hate to have to vote. I’d vote for the nicest guy (laughing)."
CRAIG LEWIS, trainer: "They don’t pay me to make those decisions. I think it’s a tough call. It could go either way, in my opinion. I don’t think anybody could argue if it went either way. Well, they could argue, but both merit consideration."
JACK CARAVA, trainer: "Frankel had a good year all year but it would be a tough decision. I’d probably have to examine their whole year more, but Frankel had a heckuva year. They both did a great job with what they had, that’s for sure. They both did a heckuva job with their individual horses."
CLIFF SISE JR., trainer: "When you win four Breeders’ Cup races in one day, you deserve it; you should be trainer of the year. That’s quite an accomplishment."
RON ELLIS, trainer: "I would have a tendency to go with the guy who had the better year overall."
MARK GLATT, trainer: "I think it’s nice for somebody different to get it. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s deserving of it. Mandella’s never won an Eclipse so I think I would give it to him, but Frankel’s 23 Grade I’s and $18 million are hard to dispute."
JULIO CANANI, trainer: "Mandella accomplished in one day what no trainer ever did before."
GARY YOUNG, bloodstock agent, clocker, gambler: "I think there’s a chance we’ll see another trainer win 23 Grade I’s in one year, but will we ever see a trainer have a day like Mandella had again? Never."
RICHIE SILVERSTEIN, agent for Martin Pedroza and Iggy Puglisi, tells this tale that illustrates how Frankel sees the glass as half empty: "Almost 30 years ago, when Frankel was mainly a claiming trainer, he had six horses running one day at Hollywood Park. Three of them had won, one had run second and one had run third. His last horse was in the last race and it got beat a zop. Bobby threw his binoculars down and said, ”˜I just can’t get lucky at this place.’ To this day Bobby says the horse was a former claimer running in a stakes race and that’s why he was so upset. But I heard it was a gamble (bet) and the sixth horse was the one he needed most."
LEONARD DORFMAN, 82-year-old trainer who saw legends Seabiscuit and Phar Lap run: "Both are real top men, there’s no doubt about it. I don’t think anybody’s ever done what Frankel’s done. I know Mandella. He actually loves horses. It isn’t just a business with him. I claimed a horse off of him one time, or one of my owners did. I never forgot this. It’s got to be 20 years ago I guess. It was about a 40 or $50,000 claiming horse. The next morning he said to me, ”˜You know, if I had to lose a horse, I’m glad you got him because he’s a nice old horse and I know you’ll take care of him."
THE HOMESTRETCH: Golden Rahy’s allowance victory at Santa Anita last Friday was worth $28,000 and gave Frankel the North American single-season earnings record at $17,854,877. D. Wayne Lukas held the former mark of $17,842,358 set in 1988 . . . Graham Stone and Will Dixon, the South Dakota natives who won $2.7 million in the Breeders’ Cup Pick Six on an $8 ticket, will be special guests of the Oak Tree Racing Association at Santa Anita on Wednesday (Nov. 5). It will be their first visit to a track with live racing . . . Trainer Jeff Mullins and jockey Ryan Fogelsonger will autograph pictures and answer questions at the Orleans Race Book on Monday, Nov. 17, at 9 a.m. Race Book director Randi Muniz and Race Book manager Bob Gregorka are coordinating the event. Ralph Siraco of Race Day Las Vegas will host.