Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Breeders' Cup Memoirs--Bobby Frankel

by Christina Bossinakis

   The 2008 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita is without a doubt among my top BC picks, because it encompasses both the rise and denouement of one of history’s greatest American trainers, Bobby Frankel. That year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint featured Juddmonte’s Ventura, a raven-colored mare who was as fiery as she was fast, possessing as strong a sense of self as I’d ever seen in a racehorse. In fact, I remember thinking, if I could come back to this life as a horse, I would be Ventura. Closing from far off a crisp pace, Ventura left the likes of Indian Blessing and Zaftig in her dust. However, most of whom were on hand that day--myself include--had no way of knowing they had just witnessed Bobby’s final Breeders’ Cup win.
   In what would turn out to be both a figurative and literal passing of the baton, the undercard featured a young trainer making his Breeders’ Cup debut. Chad Brown, who served as one of Frankel’s main assistants for five years, went out on his own at the end of 2007 after saddling the Adena Springs-raced mare Ginger Punch prior to her victory in the GI Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Monmouth. It was at the time that I met Chad, and I made regular stops by the Frankel barn to check on the mare and chat with my new friend. Fast forward a year, Chad ventured west with a graded-stakes winning filly named Maram. Always looking for a good story, I dropped by to say hello and, following a full-blown TDN feature, and more importantly, a win in the 2008 Juvenile Fillies Turf later in the week, Chad went from backstretch to big time in the blink of an eye. 
Steve Sherack Photo
   In what could have been a fitting finale for her legendary trainer, Ventura returned to Santa Anita in 2009 to try and defend her Breeders’ Cup title. With owner Prince Kahlid Abdullah in attendance, she was both the sentimental and logical choice to round out the career of the Hall of Fame trainer. But it was not to be. Hampered by a modest early pace and, most unfortunate to run into the ultra-talented filly Informed Decision, Ventura mounted a gallant challenge late but had to settle for second best that day. Less than a month later, Bobby passed away after losing his battle with Cancer. There would be no storybook ending this time. And while it would have been nice to have Europe’s super star Frankel (GB) round out his career on Breeders’ Cup day in his namesake’s former stomping ground, Bobby’s legacy continues to live on through all the people and horses formerly associated with the great trainer.
   Go Awesome Feather.

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