Although Medaglia d'Oro, who hadn't run in more than three months, was going to go off one of the heaviest favorites in Strub Stakes history, the colt's owner, Edmund Gann, wasn't stall-walking.
"It's [Bobby] Frankel who has to stay awake at night," Gann said. "It gives me time to think about other things."
Five days after he had won his third consecutive Eclipse award -- and fourth overall -- for training, Frankel saddled Medaglia d'Oro on Saturday at Santa Anita for a seven-length Strub victory, the fifth-biggest margin in the race's 56-year history. Frankel, a Hall of Fame conditioner who won the Strub last year with Mizzen Mast, joined Bob Baffert (2000-01) and John Canty (1972-73) as the only trainers to win the stake in consecutive years.
This was a glorified workout with pay, Medaglia d'Oro earning $240,000 for his fifth win in 11 starts. Last year, the colt was blanked in the Triple Crown but heated up with a second in the Belmont, a win in the Travers and a second in the Breeders' Cup Classic. He finished second to War Emblem in the voting for best 3-year-old male.
"I thought he had improved, but you never know until you run them," Frankel said. "It seems that when he gets an easy lead, it's impossible to catch him. He ran [six furlongs in 1:09 4/5] under a pull [from jockey Jerry Bailey]. There was never any concern."
In considering Medaglia d'Oro's next race -- either the $1-million Santa Anita Handicap on March 1 or the $6-million Dubai World Cup on March 29 -- Frankel and Gann indicated that a possible war between the United States and Iraq would affect a decision.
"Dubai would be our first option," Frankel said, "because it's $6 million, but who knows what's going on with the war? So if that doesn't work out, maybe the Santa Anita Handicap."
Gann, a longtime client of Frankel's, said that the trainer would make the final call.
"He's the best trainer around," Gann said.
Bailey, doing the 5,000-mile round-trip commute between Gulfstream Park in Florida and Santa Anita, won his third stake at the meet. He has upstaged Frankel -- and all other jockeys, for that matter -- in the Eclipse business, having just won his sixth award. Breaking from the outside post in a field of six, Bailey angled Medaglia d'Oro to the rail before they reached the clubhouse turn. Olmodavor finished second, a half-length ahead of Tracemark. Medaglia d'Oro, running 1 1/8 miles in 1:48, paid $2.80.
Bailey is staying over to ride Congaree, the 3-5 morning-line favorite in today's $250,000 San Antonio Handicap.
"When you ride a horse like [Medaglia d'Oro], you feel like you could go around the world and you wouldn't get tired," Bailey said.