Frankel increases his focus on Del Mar
DEL MAR, Calif. -- The training titles are no longer what matters most to Bobby Frankel. Quality long ago replaced quantity. He has not topped the trainer standings at Del Mar since 1978, when he led the meet for the fifth time in six years. Had he made Del Mar the focal point of his operation every summer in recent years, perhaps Frankel would have won more races, and stakes, and been higher than fourth all-time on both lists.
Frankel's focus in the past decade has gravitated to New York once the winter meeting ends at Santa Anita, but there has been a perceptible change in his approach this summer. Not a wholesale overhaul, for Frankel will still be a major presence at Saratoga, where he will be assisted by Scott Hansen, and he also has horses at Monmouth with assistant Chad Brown. But Frankel has his best lineup of Del Mar-based horses in years, among them Out of Control, who was among six horses entered Wednesday for the Grade 1, $400,000 Eddie Read Handicap on Sunday.
Out of Control has quickly established himself as one of the top middle-distance turf horses on the West Coast. A native of Brazil, Out of Control did not race in the United States until January, and was still eligible for a first-level allowance race. He has since won three times in five starts, including a victory last time out in the Grade 2 American Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 30.
"He ran a really good race that day," Frankel said. "He's always trained like a good horse. And you've got to remember, he's six months behind the rest."
Because he was born in the Southern Hemisphere, Out of Control gained a year when he came to the United States. He is racing as a 4-year-old, but he will not actually turn 4 until October. He is racing against much older horses, yet is only a few months older than this year's crop of North American 3-year-olds, like Street Sense and Curlin.
"You never know which ones are going to adjust and which ones are not," Frankel said. "He trained good as soon as he got here. He's been pretty straightforward."
Out of Control's career trajectory mirrors that of another Brazilian import who thrived with Frankel.
Leroidesanimaux won once in three starts in Brazil, where he defeated maidens and was second in a Group 1 race. He was racing in the United States only five months after leaving Brazil. Out of Control had the exact same resume.
"He came around pretty quickly," Frankel said.
In his first season in the U.S., Leroidesanimaux won a graded stakes race before the year was half over, as did Out of Control. Leroidesanimaux went on to win three Grade 1 races, and in 2005, his second and final year of racing in the U.S., was named the male turf champion. Like Leroidesanimaux, Out of Control is owned by Goncalo Torrealba's Stud T N T.
On Sunday, Out of Control shoots for his first Grade 1 win.
In addition to Out of Control, Frankel will have the top female turf runners Citronnade, Precious Kitten, and Price Tag at Del Mar this summer. Citronnade is not scheduled to race here - she is preparing for next month's Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Park - but both Precious Kitten and Price Tag should see action at Del Mar. Prior to this year, horses of that caliber most likely would have ended up with Frankel in Saratoga.
What's the difference? What else - Polytrack.
"I'll probably have the same number of horses there, about 40," Frankel said of Del Mar. "I'll have some decent horses. The Polytrack maybe makes me feel a little safer going down there."
Frankel said he will spend most of his time this summer at Saratoga, but might make the latter part of the meet at Del Mar. As usual, longtime assistant Humberto Ascanio will oversee the Del Mar-based horses.
Last week, before Frankel decided he would spend most of his summer in Saratoga, Ascanio jokingly worried where he would stay this summer. Since Frankel made Saratoga his summer destination, Ascanio has lucked into staying at Frankel's swanky time share at the Four Seasons Aviara in nearby Carlsbad, which Ascanio calls "paradise." Ascanio thought he might have to get new digs. But it all worked out.
"I told Humberto to go ahead and take the place," Frankel said.