In a race that could have led him to within a few dollars of the one-year earnings record, trainer Bobby Frankel had to settle for third and fourth places Sunday as the front-running Grammarian scored a 9-1 upset in the $150,000 San Gabriel Handicap at Santa Anita.
Before the race, Frankel needed $129,418 to break the record of $17,842,358 that was set by Wayne Lukas in 1988. Frankel picked up $27,000 Sunday as Decarchy, the even-money favorite in the San Gabriel, finished third, one length in front of stablemate Blue Steller.
To surpass Lukas, Frankel would have to win both races in which he has horses entered on Tuesday, Santa Anita's final card of 2002. Frankel is running Sumitas -- who was scratched from the San Gabriel -- in a $70,000 allowance and favored Rolly Polly in the $100,000-added Monrovia Handicap.
Even if he doesn't break the record, Frankel is assured of his second national purse title. His first was in 1993, when he ended a 10-year run by Lukas. Frankel is ahead of Bob Baffert by more than $5 million on this year's money list, which makes him the favorite to win a third straight Eclipse Award for trainer. Frankel, elected into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1995, won his first Eclipse two years before.
Frankel gives himself little chance to top Lukas after the San Gabriel. "The two leaders (Grammarian and David Copperfield) kept on going," he said of the first two finishers in the 1 1/8-mile grass race. "Nobody closed any ground."
Grammarian, a 4-year-old gelding who was ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr., has won two races and finished second to Sligo Bay in the Hollywood Turf Cup since he was moved by owner-breeder Lindsey Williams from Kentucky to trainer Beau Greely's Hollywood Park barn a couple of months ago. Grammarian, paying $21.40, beat David Copperfield by one length in a time of 1:48 over a course listed as good.
"This was a nice field of horses," Greely said. "Jose rode him perfectly. It was a masterful ride. This horse is about as well-bred as you can get, and he seems to relax when he gets to the front."
No matter what he does, Grammarian is a habitual longshot. Valdivia rode Grammarian for the first time in the Hollywood Turf Cup, when the horse went off at 14-1. Grammarian was 29-1 when he won the Sunset Handicap at Hollywood Park in July and 55-1 in September 2001 when he broke his maiden at Kentucky Downs. Grammarian now has four wins in 10 starts and purses of $356,966.
"He's got speed and he can kick (in the stretch), and that's a pretty strong combination," Valdivia said. "He loved the track, and when I called on him, he just blasted home."
Greely's plan is to run Grammarian in the San Marcos on Jan. 20, followed by the San Juan Capistrano Handicap on April 20.
Laffit Pincay, celebrating his 56th birthday, won the first race on the card, but could do no better than second with David Copperfield. "Coming down the stretch, my horse was lugging in a little bit," Pincay said, "and I ran right up into the other horse's heels. That cost us a little bit."
Jerry Bailey, in from Florida to ride Decarchy, is stuck at 65 stakes wins for the year, three short of the record set by Mike Smith in 1994. Bailey doesn't have any stakes mounts in the final two days of 2002.
Alex Solis, complaining of a headache after a horse rolled over him in a spill on Saturday, was excused from his mounts. Solis is scheduled to ride Adoration in Tuesday's Monrovia. Rolly Polly, the high weight at 122 pounds, is 2-1 on the morning line.... Kona Gold, making his first start since running fourth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint in October, turns 9-years-old Wednesday and will be opposed by eight rivals in the New Year's Day $100,000 Conejo Handicap. Kona Gold, who has six wins and five seconds in 12 starts at Santa Anita, drew the inside post and will carry 123 pounds, which is between six and 12 pounds more than the others.