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Trainer Bobby Frankel's private battle becomes public

The Hall of Fame trainer has been quietly fighting cancer for about six months. The sport has guarded his privacy, but his battle is mentioned on national telecast.

November 07, 2009|Bill Dwyre, Pete Thomas and Eric Sondheimer

Lots of heartfelt wishes were pulling Ventura toward the finish line Friday at Santa Anita, as the 5-year-old, Bobby Frankel-trained mare tried to chase down Informed Decision in the home stretch of the $1-million Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.

Ventura was the defending champion but was 1 1/4 lengths shy and in second place this time.

Frankel, a Hall of Fame trainer and recipient of five Eclipse Awards as the sport's trainer of the year, has been quietly battling cancer for about six months.

Frankel, 68, is a highly private man, and people in racing have guarded that privacy. But during Friday's national telecast, ESPN noted that Frankel had three horses running and would not be there because of his battle with cancer.

A close friend, Joe Torre, manager of the Dodgers and owner of several horses trained by Frankel, said when told that Frankel's plight had been on TV, "He is getting treatment. Recently, he has been getting better."

Torre, who also has battled cancer, added: "He's not about to stop fighting. That's one thing I know about him for sure."

Frankel had three horses entered Friday. Visit finished fourth in the Filly & Mare Turf and Proviso was fourth in the Ladies' Classic.


Out of Zenyatta's shadow

Three times this year, Life Is Sweet lost to her stablemate, the unbeaten Zenyatta. But with Zenyatta's connections choosing to take on the boys in the Breeders' Cup Classic, Life Is Sweet got a chance Friday to show her talent, rallying from last place as an 8-1 longshot to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Mushka in the $2-million Ladies' Classic.

Jockey Garrett Gomez was so excited, he raised his right arm in triumph just before the finish line. "When you run some tough races like she did, it will take something out of you," Gomez said. "I'm glad they were able to get her confidence back and have her prepared today."

Asked about the horse's being overshadowed by Zenyatta, owner Martin Wygod said, "If you have to be overshadowed by something, that is the right mare to be overshadowed by."


More people, money

Attendance was 37,651, compared to 31,257 on the first day of the 2008 Breeders' Cup.

Mutuel handle, including off-track betting, for Friday's nine races (three of them not affiliated with the Breeders' Cup) was $48,439,458, a 1% increase compared to last year, when there were 10 races.

On-site handle was $7,097,789, a 4% increase.


Two for Leparoux

French jockey Julien Leparoux, who is based in Kentucky, was the only rider with two victories Friday. He won aboard She Be Wild in the Juvenile Fillies and Informed Decision in the Filly & Mare Sprint.


She came close

Rosemary Homeister Jr., the only female jockey in this year's Breeders' Cup, led down the stretch aboard 9-year-old Cloudy's Knight but finished second by a nose in Friday's first Breeders' Cup race, the 1 3/4 -mile Marathon.

Of her photo-finish loss to Man of Iron and John Murtagh, Homeister said, "When I hit the quarter-pole I just asked him, and he gave me everything he had. Galloping out, he was still in front. It was just a bob of the head. He has such a long neck and a long nose -- I just wish it was a little bit longer."

Homeister, who was 13th in the 2003 Kentucky Derby, was racing for the first time at Santa Anita.


Curlin memories

Robby Albarado, who won aboard Tapitsfly in the $1-million Juvenile Fillies Turf, was reminded afterward of his disappointing fourth-place finish last year aboard heavily-favored Curlin in the $5-million Breeders' Cup Classic.

Asked whether Santa Anita's artificial Pro-Ride surface was responsible for the surprising performance, the jockey chose his words carefully:

"[Curlin] had a long campaign running against the best horses throughout the year. So it is the end of the year, so, you know, I'm not going to blame it on the Pro-Ride. I'm not going to blame it on anything.

"It's unfortunate he went out in his last race not winning. It was the first thing I thought about when I came to the gates today, though."


Zenyatta influence

The Darley-owned Street Cry, based in Lexington, Ky., is the sire of the 5-year-old unbeaten mare Zenyatta, and has seen his stud fees soar since she was born: from $30,000 in 2004 to $150,000. Zenyatta was among his first crop of foals.


And finally

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who will ride Zenyatta in today's Breeders' Cup Classic, is regarded as one of horse racing's most personable athletes.

Says Zenyatta's trainer John Shirreffs: "To give you an idea, all his girlfriends still like him. Usually you break up and they can't stand you, but they all call Mike to see how he's doing. He's best friends with all his ex's, and that's unbelievable."



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