For trainer Bobby Frankel, Sunday’s $1-million Pacific Classic is almost bound to come off better than his induction last Monday into the Racing Hall of Fame at Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Frankel has done nothing wrong in the last three Classics at Del Mar, and this year he’ll run Tinners Way, the 1994 winner, as he tries to win the 1 1/4-mile race for the fourth consecutive time.
At Saratoga Springs, nothing went right. When Frankel looked at his plaque, it was engraved: “Bobby Frankel.”
“That’s what everybody calls me, and I don’t mind at all,” Frankel said. “But I sign my name ‘Robert Frankel,’ and that’s what it ought to be. All it would have taken was a phone call to get it right. I’m going to have it changed.”
Then Frankel looked at the rest of the plaque.
“They listed seven or eight of the horses I’ve trained,” he said. “They had Pay The Butler, Toussaud, Bertrando and Marquetry, and that was fine. But then they put on Val Des Bois, Senate Appointee and a couple of other horses that didn’t do that much. Of all the real good horses I’ve trained, and that’s what they come up with?
“Senate Appointee, all I did with him was win a couple of races at Pomona. Where was Linda’s Chief, the best dirt horse I ever trained? And Johnny’s Image, probably the best grass horse I ever trained? There are at least 10 horses--Grade I winners--that are more important than the horses they put on there. You could name a hundred of my best horses, and you wouldn’t come up with Val Des Bois and Senate Appointee. These things bother me. Forty or five years from now, I’ll be dead and buried, and that plaque without the right horses will still be up there.”
Among the Frankel owners on the plaque were Bert Firestone and Stavros Niarchos.
“I trained maybe three horses for Firestone,” Frankel said. “I wasn’t with Niarchos that long. It must be politics. Put the most important guys on there, even though it doesn’t make sense. Where was Bill Frankel? When I first came to California, [Bill] Frankel [who is not related to the trainer] and I won hundreds of races. He got me started out here. He’s one of the most important owners I’ve ever had. But they didn’t put him on the plaque.”
After the Hall of Fame ceremony, Bobby Frankel and Jerry Bailey, a jockey who had also been inducted, crossed the street from the National Museum of Racing to the Saratoga track. Bailey was scheduled to ride in most of the races on the card, and he and Frankel were asked to present the trophy in the winner’s circle after the afternoon’s feature, the National Museum Hall of Fame Stakes.
“The race is over, and I go down there,” Frankel said. “Jerry rode in the race, so he runs in the jocks’ room afterward, to put a jacket over his silks, and he comes back to help me with the presentation. So we’re standing there, waiting for somebody to hand us the trophy, and then they hand it to [Burt] Bacharach, and he makes the presentation. And we’re just left standing there. I mean, what is this? We’d been asked to be there, and now we’re standing there with nothing to do. It was embarrassing. After all, the race’s name is the Hall of Fame.”
Bacharach, a horse owner and Oscar-winning composer, was the featured speaker at the Hall of Fame inductions. He had also presented Frankel with his plaque that morning.
All in all, it was a hectic couple of days for Frankel.
After saddling Eagle Eyed for a sixth-place finish in last Sunday’s Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar, he flew to New York on the plane of Edmund Gann, one of his longtime owners.
“We got there about 3:30 [Monday morning],” Frankel said. “I got up early the same morning to be over at the museum to sign autographs and be there for the ceremony. By 2 in the afternoon, over at the track, I was dead. A nap would have felt real good. But I hung around until 5, because they wanted me to present the trophy. Then there was no trophy to present. And this was supposed to be one of the most wonderful days of my life. It leaves a real sour taste in your mouth.”
Frankel doesn’t blame Bacharach for the snafu in the winner’s circle. And coincidentally, to win the Pacific Classic for the fourth consecutive time, Frankel will have to beat Bacharach’s Soul Of The Matter, who in a mild surprise was installed as the 2-1 favorite when six horses were entered Thursday. Concern, who could still go off the favorite after a hard-luck sixth place in the Hollywood Gold Cup, was made the second choice at 5-2.
Concern, who arrived from the East Coast on Wednesday night, drew the No. 1 post. He’ll be ridden by Gary Stevens because Mike Smith, who has ridden the colt in his last five races, including victories in the Californian at Hollywood Park and the New Orleans Handicap at the Fair Grounds, is committed to Inside Information in the $150,000 Ballerina Handicap at Saratoga.
It’s a pox to be favored in this race. The four previous favorites--Farma Way, Paseana, Best Pal and Bertrando--have finished no better than third. The first time Best Pal ran in the Pacific Classic, in the 1991 inaugural, he won as the 9-2 co-second choice. Frankel’s winners in the last three years--Missionary Ridge, Bertrando and Tinners Way--paid $51, $8.20 and $16.20, respectively.
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Pacific Classic Field
The field for Sunday’s $1 million Grade I race:
PP Horse Jockey Odds 1. Concern Stevens 5-2 2. Blumin Affair McCarron 6 3. Slew Of Damascus Nakatani 5 4. Soul Of The Matter Desormeaux 2 5. Tinners Way Delahoussaye 7-2 6. Cleante Solis 8
All horses carry 124 pounds