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HORSE RACING

Humberto Ascanio is out to win for Bobby Frankel

He worked for Frankel for 35 years, and is honoring his former employer's memory while showing skill of his own as a trainer.

November 28, 2009|Eric Sondheimer

Trainer Humberto Ascanio's cellphone started ringing in the winner's circle at Hollywood Park on Saturday. Ascanio, the assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel for 35 years, was being interviewed by reporters after winning a Grade I stakes for the second consecutive day, this time the 5-year-old mare Ventura taking the $300,000 Matriarch Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths over Tuscan Evening.

"Maybe he's calling me," Ascanio said.

Ascanio opened the phone, looked at the number and said, "It's him."

Ascanio could smile and joke because these last two days have not only honored the memory of Frankel, but also showed his promise as a trainer on his own.

On Friday, the 9-1 long shot Fluke won the $300,000 Citation Stakes for Ascanio, who took over Frankel's stable after his death from lymphoma on Nov. 16.

On Saturday, Ventura, the 3-5 favorite, turned in a dominating performance in her final race before heading to Kentucky for broodmare duties.

It was Frankel's last wish to run Ventura in the Matriarch.

"I wanted this one more -- for him," Ascanio said. "I wish she could stay one more year, but that's the last call. And that's why he wanted her in. He knew she was gonna win this one. They wanted to retire her a winner."

Ventura, owned by Juddmonte Farms, finishes her career with 10 victories in 21 starts and $2,580,530 in earnings. She won five of her last 10 starts, and finished second the other five times.

Ventura was third in the field of six in the early going, picked up momentum around the final turn and took the lead from pacesetter Tuscan Evening in mid-stretch under jockey Garrett Gomez to win the mile race on the turf in 1:33.58.

"She's just been amazing," Gomez said. "She's probably one of the best fillies I've ever ridden going a mile. Actually she is the best filly I've ridden going a mile. She has the most explosive turn of foot I've ever seen."

For Ascanio, winning Grade I stakes in consecutive days "is like a dream," he said. "Everything is in memory of [Frankel]."

Hollywood Park's three-day turf festival continues today with the Grade I $300,000 Hollywood Derby. Also being honored is the retiring unbeaten mare Zenyatta, who will be paraded on the track between the seventh and eighth races.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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