The Ghost and Mr. Frankel

Bobby Frankel not only was a trainer, owner, and breeder, he was a darn good handicapper, a skill he developed studying the old Morning Telegraph as a kid growing up in Brooklyn. And it was his handicapping skills that won him many a race as a trainer. Unlike the majority of trainers from the 1960s, when he got started, Frankel came from the streets and he trained from the streets.

He followed the Ragozin Sheets and could be seen most days in his office handicapping an upcoming race in which one of his horses would be participating. He knew exactly how his horses stacked up in a particular race -- who were the horses to beat, how much speed was in the race, how big a part the weight spread would play, and where his horse should be under the scenario he had mapped out.

For Frankel, it was all about winning, and he looked for every possible advantage. He was skilled at mind games and would often voice his opinion regarding weight assignments quite vociferously, partly to express his displeasure and partly to intimidate racing secretaries who were well aware he would not hesitate to scratch his horse, no matter how low the odds. He would scratch his horse over the difference of one pound. Every Frankel tirade was like a well-orchestrated pool shot designed to set him up for the next shot.

But as cocky as Frankel could be, often assuring a victory, he was not afraid to seek advice from those he respected. His mind operated like a computer, always absorbing and calculating information, and he could change his plans at the drop of a hat, depending on what the computer was registering at that moment.

Frankel was far from a saint, and he’d be the first to admit it, but he sure was his own person and one of the sport’s most colorful characters. It is safe to say he liked his dogs and his horses more than he liked most people.

When Frankel split his stable at the beginning of the decade, keeping most of his top horses at Belmont Park, he completely dominated racing in the Big Apple, winning 26 of NYRA’s 39 grade I stakes over a three-to-four-year period, a mind-boggling statistic.

The 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic was a race Frankel wanted to win badly. He was running his horse of a lifetime, Ghostzapper, and although the lightly raced colt had never been a mile and a quarter, Frankel firmly believed there wasn’t a horse in America who could touch him, whether it was at six furlongs or 10 furlongs.

And the speed figure gurus felt the same way. Len Friedman of the Ragozin Sheets called him “the most consistently fast horse of all time.” Thoro-Graph’s Jerry Brown said, “To run as fast as he did in three consecutive races in essentially unheard of.” Turf writer Dick Jerardi, who compiles the Beyer Speed Figures, wrote in his column: “Ghostzapper is officially the fastest horse since Daily Racing Form began publishing Beyer Speed Figures in 1992.”

The morning before the Woodward Stakes, Ghostzapper’s regular exercise rider, Nuno Santos, who also galloped Fusaichi Pegasus for Neil Drysdale and Azeri for Laura De Seroux, jumped off the colt and said to Frankel, “Galloping him is better than sex.”

As the Breeders’ Cup drew near, Santos couldn’t contain his excitement, because he knew what was to come. Even when Ghostzapper drew the 1-post, leaving him few options other than going for the lead, Santos was unfazed. “Drawing the rail doesn’t matter; wire-to-wire,” he said. “Believe me, no worries. This horse is unreal, a freak, and everyone is going to see it on Saturday. You’re going to see a Secretariat type of race. I can feel him getting stronger every day, and I’ve never been as confident in a horse as I am with this guy, and that includes Azeri (who also was entered in the Classic). It’s another world. They’re going to have to wait years and years to see another one like this.”

Frankel had been waiting impatiently for the Classic since Ghostzapper’s gutsy victory over Saint Liam in the Woodward. “If I don’t screw him up and he goes into the Breeders’ Cup as good as he is now, he can’t lose. It’ll be no contest; that’s all I’m telling you. That’s how good this horse is.”

Despite the presence of Pleasantly Perfect, winner of the previous year’s BC Classic and that year’s Dubai World Cup; Birdstone, winner of the Belmont Stakes and Travers; Azeri, the 2002 Horse of the Year; Funny Cide, the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner who was coming off a victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup; and Roses in May, winner of five straight, including the Whitney and Kentucky Cup Classic, Frankel was convinced none of them could beat Ghostzapper.

If he had one concern it was drawing the rail and being forced to go to the lead. Frankel didn’t mind Ghostzapper being in front, but he knew the only thing that could possibly get him beat was being pushed into suicidal fractions. And he felt the only horse capable of doing that was Roses in May, a pure speed horse who could carry his speed. The Whitney was the only race that year in which he failed to get the early lead, and in that race, he forced the pace through torrid fractions of :45 1/5 and 1:08 4/5 and still won. In the Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows, he set fast fractions and drew clear, covering the 1 1/8 miles in a track-record 1:46 3/5.

Roses in May’s trainer, Dale Romans, had his strategy all planned. He felt if he had jockey John Velazquez gun Roses in May to the lead, establishing a clear lead while setting stiff fractions, he could kill off everyone near him by taking them out of their game plan.

But after Ghostzapper drew post 1, Azeri post 3, and Roses in May post 6, that plan no longer seemed feasible. The following morning, Romans stood in the trainer’s stand with owner Ken Ramsey watching Roses in May gallop and plotted a new strategy. But his thinking was geared more toward the speedy Azeri than Ghostzapper, who was more of a stalker and had never  been on the lead.

“Azeri has got to go, and we have the opportunity to make decisions now,” Romans told Ramsey. “John will be able to dictate what he does.”

That sounded good to Ramsey, who replied, “We’re obviously in the catbird seat and can sit and watch what they do. The absolute biggest thing for us is make sure the horse is well within himself and we don’t get involved in some speed duel down the backstretch.”

Romans knew that Ghostzapper was the horse to beat and said he didn’t want to go “eyeball to eyeball” with him, but “wanted to let him know we’re there,” figuring maybe Ghostzapper would “get aggravated and we can run him down.”

Frankel, unaware of that conversation, knew he had to work on Ramsey and convince him not to go hell-bent-for leather with Roses in May and cost both horses the race. He didn’t care if Roses in May ran with Ghostzapper or stalked him. He just wanted a reasonable pace. If he could get away with a  :47 half, he knew there wasn’t a horse alive who could catch Ghostzapper.

So, two days before the race, Frankel saw Ramsey outside Barn B2 and decided this was the perfect time to plant the seeds of his strategy in Ramsey’s head. There were few people who could sound as convincing as Frankel. He truly believed he was always right, and he felt it was his job to convince other people of that fact. He could do it in a soft, seductive, authoritative manner if it called for that approach or he could do it obstreperously at the upper levels of his distinctive high-pitched screech.

In Ramsey’s case, it called for the soft approach. After all, Frankel trained for Ramsey, which is why the owner was at his barn – to discuss his Breeders’ Cup Mile starter Nothing to Lose, whom Frankel had saddled to back-to-back wins in the grade II Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga and grade I Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland.

When Frankel spoke, you listened. So, Ramsey was all ears after Frankel took him to a nice quiet spot outside the barn, sat down on the concrete manure pit, and began his little talk.

“If we lay first and second and the jockeys keep them slow and don’t kill each other trying for the lead, they’ll finish one-two,” Frankel assured Ramsey. “You know what I’m saying? If they’re not stupid and they stay cool, we’ll be one-two.”

“So, you’re boxing them (in the exactas), huh?” Ramsey replied, breaking into his familiar broad grin and booming laugh. “In other words, how fast we go on the backstretch will dictate what happens in the homestretch. What about Azeri?”

“I don’t think Azeri is going to be there,” Frankel said. “She can’t run with these two. Both our horses will get the mile and a quarter and we got two smart jockeys (Javier Castellano on Ghostzapper and Velazquez). If they sit, they finish one-two. I’m telling you, that’s the race; it’s that simple. Look, I gotta go (to the front) from the one post. But if they let us get away with a half in :47, the race is over. It’ll be you and me, and let the best horse win.”

This pretty much had been Ramsey’s and Roman’s strategy, but Frankel’s constant assurances that they would finish one-two removed any doubts in Ramsey’s mind. What was important was drumming it into the heads of their jockeys.

“That’s the best shot we got,” Ramsey said. “And if I outrun you or you outrun me, we’re still talking about $800,000 for second. That’s nothing to sneeze at.”

Although it sounded enticing to Ramsey, Frankel had no intention of finishing second. He knew if Ramsey, Romans, and Velazquez let him slow the pace down, he’d have his first Classic victory. He also knew that they were well aware this was Roses in May’s only shot to win, and if he couldn’t win he’d be second. After all, Bobby Frankel said so.

This basically was two guys who were confident they could win and making sure they didn’t cost each other the race. It was typical Frankel, taking the initiative and drumming it into the other’s head.

On the morning of the Breeders’ Cup, expectations in Frankel’s barn were high, with six solid Breeders’ Cup starters. Ghostzapper, as was his habit, was sprawled out in his stall, something he did every morning at 9:30 like clockwork. When his groom, Carlos Quevedo, went into his stall to trim the edge of his mane behind his ears, Ghostzapper didn’t even bother getting up, preferring to just lie there while Quevedo snipped away.

By the time the Classic rolled around, however, Frankel was dejected and frustrated, having seen his other five Breeders’ Cup starters all finish out of the money. Ghostzapper was his last shot to turn a disastrous day into one of jubilation.

It’s not easy in a horse race to have your script played out to perfection, but it was as if Frankel had seen it all in a crystal ball and made it happen just that way. Ghostzapper went to the lead, with Roses in May dogging him from the outside. Azeri was right in the hunt, with Pat Day content to sit back behind the two leaders. Castellano and Velazquez played their role perfectly and slowed the pace down with an opening half in :47. Right on the button. Frankel had his :47 half and now it was all up to Ghostzapper, who maintained a half-length lead over Roses in May, as Azeri began to drop back.

When Castellano asked him, he opened the lead up to a length with a strong :24 flat quarter. In the stretch, Roses in May was unable to keep up, but, just as Frankel had promised Ramsey, he was well clear of the others and was never in any danger of losing second. Ghostzapper, meanwhile, stormed home with a :23 4/5 final quarter to win by three lengths, and his time of 1:59.02 broke the stakes record set by Skip Away in 1997. Roses in May finished second, four lengths ahead of Pleasantly Perfect.

Ramsey and Romans had to feel good knowing they had been beaten by a superior horse; the fastest ever according to the speed gurus and one of the best seen in America in several years.

As Frankel approached the winner’s circle he ran into Ramsey, who was gracious in defeat.

“Well, that’s what you said would happen, and that’s what we did,” said Ramsey, who had also finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf with the Romans-trained Kitten’s Joy. “We ran our game plan. We laid off your flank, and if you had backed up we would have tried to take the lead. It didn’t work out that way; my hat’s off to you.”

Back at the barn, as Ghostzapper picked on some alfalfa and then tore into his hay rack, Romans stopped by with his son to offer his congratulations. “It was a big day and I’m proud of our team,” he said to Frankel. “I told my wife, ‘I made about $150,000 today and I’ve got the blues; something’s wrong with that.’ Great job with him. I know it hasn’t been easy.”

Recently, Romans reflected on the race. “Those were two horses who could run fast and keep on going,” he said. “That was a special field of horses behind us, but they just got tired chasing us. Our horse ran a great race, but Ghostzapper was just too good.”

Roses in May would have his day, or night, the following March when he easily captured the $6-million Dubai World Cup.

As for Frankel, he had put the finishing touches on what was to become a Horse of the Year campaign for Ghostzapper. It had been an exhausting day, but there was still one more piece of unfinished business. Frankel had his up-and-coming grass horse, Leroidesanimaux, running in the grade III Morvich Handicap at Santa Anita. He and his staff and his wife at the time, Bonita, all gathered around the TV in the office. After the 4-year-old Brazilian-bred closed fast to win going away, Frankel broke into his familiar Cheshire cat grin, turned to Bonita, and said, “OK, let’s go home.” 


Leave a Comment:


i think that theres one story you could do justice do as it came full circle even though george washington has been gone for nearly 3 yrs which made it bittersweet i'm sure for the breeders and the owner of his only foal date with destiny who won on the 9th

13 Jul 2010 1:28 PM
Ted from LA

Great article.

“Galloping him is better than sex.”

He must not be doing it right.

13 Jul 2010 1:33 PM

Great article Steve.  I've been following horses since the Bid and I'd say Ghostzapper is the only horse that I've seen who I think could run with him.  I wish he would've stayed healthy but I enjoyed the few races that he did run in.    

13 Jul 2010 1:49 PM
Bill Daly

Great story, Steve. Bobby certainly was one of the all-time great trainers. I believe he came up under the late Buddy Jacobson in NY. He credited Jacobson as a mentor to some degree. Do you know anything about that part of Frankel's life?  It would make for an interesting story.  Thanks.

13 Jul 2010 1:53 PM


Another great story,riveting to the end. Well Done!

Is anybody writing a book about Bobby Frankel? cuz somebody should!

13 Jul 2010 1:54 PM

One of the best BCC fields ever.

13 Jul 2010 2:05 PM

roses in may was superior horse, and ghostzapper was the best ever, their 1-2 finish is the strongest you'll see,compare!

13 Jul 2010 2:18 PM

i am forty years old and as far back as i can remember,ghostzapper was the best i've ever seen 6and half furlongs to a mile and a quarter, unbeleivable speed and stamina and what talent, THE FREAK OF ALL FREAKS!

13 Jul 2010 2:24 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Susan, I concur. Riveting. Steve has written a number of great owner and trainer articles lately that would make a great book. "The Game" -Behind the scenes with Haskin and America's fascinating owners and trainers and their racing stars. Fascinating inside information of their love affair with racing.

13 Jul 2010 3:16 PM

One of the worst things to happen to racing was the Zapper not being able to finish his 5yo season.  With the way he started it, god only knows what could have been.

13 Jul 2010 3:39 PM

I don't know what it is but everytime I read your stories always makes me feel like I'm living inside that story and really seeing it happen.  This is another one just like the Saratoga Dream.

Thanks for the great story about Bobby, he was one of my favorite trainers.  I use to think of him as more of a turf horse trainer, then he started racing some really good dirt horses.

13 Jul 2010 5:06 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

I had a tremendous admiration for Bobby Frankel: The way he made interviewers sweat and squirm, his love of dogs and horses, his genius at placing his horses, his hot streaks, his foresight in pointing to Grade Ones, his demeanor and the class with which he carried himself. I love this story because this is a man that I would have really loved to have known and associated with. To have some insight into his methods and personality is a joy. This is a story written by a genius about a genius. I hope there is more to come. The illness and then passing of Bobby Frankel was very sad to me, and his life should be celebrated more. We could use more stories about this insightful and complex man. If Steve writes a book about him, I'll be the first to line up to buy it. When you saw him you knew that the wheels were turning, that he was thinking way ahead, that he had important things to do, and places to go. He went and he conquered.

13 Jul 2010 5:08 PM

Rob must be new to racing. He is one of the good ones, he got beat like everybodyelse, I guess you didn't see Precisionist, Grienton, Holy Bull, Conquistador Cielo,and Spend A buck.

13 Jul 2010 5:17 PM

He's still got a lot to prove and is not yet as accomplished as Ghostzapper, but Quality Road reminds me of Ghostzapper in that he is freakishly fast and explosive.  I am looking forward to the Summer and Fall campaign.  Excellent artice.

13 Jul 2010 5:31 PM

Bobby Frankel once said that Ghostzapper was the best horse in the last 25 years (since the Bid), and that's good enough for me.   I visited with GZ at Adena Springs a few years back and I could sense that he believed it as well.  I love watching the replay of that race.

13 Jul 2010 5:36 PM

Reading your story sure makes me miss Bobby Frankel.  His love of his dogs and horses made him so appealing since he could be so gruff and straightforward talking with a few TV reporters who a asked rather mundane questions.  He seemed kind of scary.

It would have been great to just to be around him and listen.

13 Jul 2010 7:35 PM

Good story. But...strategy? handicapping? shared owners? psychology? all sounds too chummy for me..and Bobby Frankel is one of my favorites for his humanity to the animals he trained..and those he loved and cared for (his dogs)..but his handiacapping acumen..and use of his position with owners..sounds like..race fixing to me? I am a romantic..and like to think the best shows to be the best on any given day..of Frankel's astute handicapping instints..and authority I would maybe have not liked to have known. I always just thought Ghostzapper was just a freak. It saddens me to see the manipulation behind the scenes..when I think it is always the horse itself that is left to shine and can overcome any trials the "track" may through at it.

Good article on Frankel. Not so good sheding light for the bettor or horse romantic.

13 Jul 2010 7:42 PM

In my opinion, to be truly great, to be a true freak, a horse must not just be incredibly fast, it must be sound and be able to withstand the rigors of racing long enough to compile a strong list of accomplishments.

A horse like Spectacular Bid was a true legend because he had superior talent and was able to demonstrate this talent race after race for a total of 30 starts, with 26 victories, and more than a dozen gr 1s.

For the 6 races from the 03' Vosburgh to the 05' Met Mile, Ghostzapper was absolutely sensational, and no horse this decade owns a comparable 6 race span.  However, that 6 race span basically represents Ghostzapper's career, at least in major stakes.  Unfortunately, injury prevented Zapper from accumlating the quantity of accomplishments to warrant a full comparison to The Bid.

Personally, I would have to rank Ghostzapper behind horses like Cigar and Skip Away in a list of the best over the last 20 years.  For me, the slightly lower peak speed figures of a Skip Away(and I mean slightly lower, Skip Away's top 4 Beyers are 125, 122, 121, 120 while Zapper's 4 best are 128, 124, 122, 120), are outweighed by the fact Skip Away won 6 more gr.1 races than Zapper, placed in 34 races while Zapper ran in a total of 11, and by the fact that Skip Away ran more Beyers over 115(close to 20) than Zapper ran in races. By every criteria except peak figures, Skip Away was the better horse.

I know quite a few had Ghostzapper as their #1 horse of the 2000s.  I ended up placing Curlin #1, but it was real close with him, Zapper, Tiznow, and Invasor for best male of the recently ended decade.  And I would rate all of these horses below Cigar and Skip Away but alongside Holy Bull and Silver Charm from the 90s.

As for Beyers, if you go back further than 1992, horses like Easy Goer and Precisionist had figs just as good as Zapper if not better, and accomplished alot more.  As for more perspective, Beyer estimated Secretariat ran Beyers of 126 in the Derby and Preakness (Sham 122) and then something in the 139-148 range for the Belmont.

13 Jul 2010 9:26 PM
Jim P

Thank you, Steve. That was great. You bring the "inside" of racing to life and I appreciate it. Thanks again.

13 Jul 2010 9:27 PM
Ted from LA

Too bad he never won a Derby.  Obviously that doesn't diminish his incredible career, but I was prepared to bet on him until he won one.  A toast to Bobby Frankel, a man taken too soon.

14 Jul 2010 1:11 AM

Steve, your comment about Bobby Frankel being a darn good handicapper, reminds of passing him outside of the old Del Mar, one afternoon. He had saddled the two lukewarm favorites in the claiming get out race.  I, stupidly, had bet one of them and to beat the crowds, I left the area and stood near Jimmy Durante Road in order to hear the call. My bet never fired in the stretch, so, I crossed the bridge and cut towards the rail road and the beach area.  Half way, I spotted Bobby Frankel walking ahead of me.  I thought, "Geez, he left before the race".  As I passed, we glanced at each other and I said, "Thought you had a chance".  He, only, shook his head and said, "Nah".  Yes, he was a better handicapper than I.

14 Jul 2010 8:18 AM

Many sides to Bobby Frankel. Of course, a great horse trainer. But, what about Bethenny Frankel's shocking story in People. Is it true?

14 Jul 2010 8:19 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Runflatout, a 48.40 bullet workout. Woohoo !!! Another great owner and trainer story. The next year is going to be very good despite the problems in racing. There are some really good two year old horses and some not to shabby older ones too. You've got possible superstar new young sires in Afleet Alex, Street Sense, Bluegrass Cat, and others. The Breeder's Cup Classic of the century, then a Triple Crown quest, Ted from LA is here and the great Haskin articles keep rolling.

14 Jul 2010 10:12 AM

Race fixing in a BCC?  That seems kind of far fetched especially in the sport’s year-end Classic where two horses had legitimate shots to win.  Both trainers, whichever way you want to look at it, had to be immensely disappointed leading up to the race, Romans for the Kitten’s Joy debacle (maybe the best bet of the day) where he was mugged by a winner that SHOULD HAVE BEEN DQ’D; and Frankel for losing 5 or 6 of the previous races on the card, some in which he had a legitimate shot at winning.  They were simply trying to out strategize each other and even if they didn’t talk, both knew going in that anything less than a .47 half with the two of them (or any other horse) going at it would be suicide.  They got their half and there was still 6F left to fight it out, and all others in the race had every opportunity to catch GZ but couldn’t ever come a 47.4 final half and a 23.4 final quarter, and a record 1.59 finish.

14 Jul 2010 10:51 AM

I definitely think of Ghostzapper as a freak.  He might not have had the longevity in his career like many of the great ones, but how many of them can put up the following incredible numbers at so many distances and in ONLY AN 11 RACE CAREER:

• 6F……1.08.1

• 6-1/2F……1.14.3

• 7F……..1.20.2

• Mile…..1.33.1

• 1-1/8…..1.46.1

• 1-1/4…..1.59

• In addition, a mile split (head and head for the lead) of 1.33.1

Ghostzapper’s career was spread over three and a half years primarily because of infirmities.  Could we imagine how he might have re-written the record books if he had been sound during this period?  To put that into perspective, Cigar raced 3 ½ years, but was only at the top of his game in the final two (this might have been different if he had started his career on dirt instead of turf).  Skip Away raced for 3 ½ years but his best period was between May ‘97 to Sep ’98, 1 year-3mths.  And as much as I like Curlin (one of my all time favorites), to be honest his times and Beyers never approached Ghostzapper’s and the competition in his toughest race (’07 BCC was maybe not as deep and certainly not tougher than GZ’s BCC a race with a BCC defending champ and 3 past-present and future HOY's).  When comparing Easy Goer’s times (he raced all the distances that GZ did and more) and yet the only time he actually ran faster at any of those distances was in the Gotham (1.32.4).  Other than that one race, GZ ran faster than him every time.  As far as the Bid, how many horses in time could ever approach his brilliance?

To me, Ghostzapper’s  incredible record defines the word freak, but in my opinion, his short career (and that only) was not enough to rate him alongside many past champions.

14 Jul 2010 11:30 AM
Mike in SB

Bobby Frankel was a great trainer and he had some of my favorite horses, but I think he was most responsible for the trend in todays racing to race horses fewer times and with more time between starts. Quality Road will probably run only five times this year before the Breeders Cup and his campaign is being called ambitious.

I believe this is one of the major problems in racing today and it is not good for either the sport or the horses.

14 Jul 2010 11:36 AM

Mr. Haskin,

Racing fans need a book about Bobby Frankel and his incredible career. Right now, all we have is bits and pieces. We need someone like you to put it all together.

Writing a book is a daunting task but I think that your research is practically done. From your articles, I assume you knew him quite well and if YOU tell the story it would be fantastic!

I know I'm not the only one who wishes for this. Is it on your "to do" list? Could we be this lucky?

I second Dr D.'s motion!!! The tale needs to be told and who is better at it? Nobody!!!

Dr Drunkinbum,

Would you believe I wasn't there to see it? Darn! He appears to be quite fast. I'm hoping he develops into a "nice" horse. Could I be THIS lucky my first time around? Would Frankel say: "Nah!"?  :)

14 Jul 2010 11:50 AM
steve from st louis

Steve: Obviously Frankel was as much a favorite of yours as any of the great horsemen with whom you  interact. What speaks volumns about the man and what he was able to accomplish was that this was a Jewish kid from Brooklyn who had some of his greatest successes for a Saudi Prince. Only in America.

14 Jul 2010 11:51 AM

@Mike in SB, when Frankel became a trainer for stakes horses, he followed patterns much closer to Charlie Wittingham.  Neither of them over raced their horses, as they were using the stakes calendars as road maps.  As Charlie once said, "Horses are like strawberries".  They can sour in a heart beat.

Frankel was much different as the King of the claiming ranks, when, he had to rely on the condition book and pick and choose his claims. There were many around the track who claimed one had to be careful claiming a Frankel horse, as you might get the horse, but, not the formula.  However, notice claiming trainers do run their mounts far more often than stakes trainers.  Even D Wayne Lucas changed his philosophy of "any good horse should be on the track every 10 days".  As his success with the stakes types mounted, he ran them fewer times.

However, Frankel was very smart in conditioning his runners.  For example, he would take a miler and run him 7F.  Or in the BC, he ran Squirtle Squirt at 6 and a half, then, dropped him back for the sprint.  Another connection with the great Charlie W is their ability to bring horses up to quality races off works.

14 Jul 2010 1:07 PM

When, I posted, "You might get the horse, but, not the formula", I did not mean to imply any hanky panky.  The formula you would not receive was the best of care any horse in Frankel's barn received by his excellent grooms and leg men.  In addition, as he was an excellent handicapper, he understood the proper placing of his horses in races.  Many tried to emulate him, but, few ever succeeded.

14 Jul 2010 1:31 PM
Shelby's Best Pal

Thanks for this great article.

14 Jul 2010 1:36 PM

Bobby Frankel is missed, that's for sure.

In my seven years of following racing, Ghostzapper was the most brilliant and breathtaking horse I've ever seen. He was like a comet or meteor streaking across the heavens. And when he had passed by, you knew something extraordinary had happened, and you needed to catch your breath.

14 Jul 2010 1:51 PM


I understood what you meant, but it was a good idea to clarify your statement. You never know what some people will do with ONE word. lol!

14 Jul 2010 2:02 PM

Steve, your articles always give me goosebumps and this one was no different.  You are an amzaing writer and you provide details and insight like no other.    

Bobby Frankel was one of my favorite trainers and I miss reading and hearing about him very much.  

Bert, thank you for sharing your story as well.  It was charming and funny and offered a brief yet unique perspective of this amazing trainer.  

14 Jul 2010 2:06 PM
Mike in Sb


  Charlie Whittingham has always been my favorite trainer. I remember him running Ferdinand in the Malibu on opening day, then three weeks later in the San Fernando, two weeks later in the Strub, then a month later in the Big Cap. Four big races in a little over two months, not too many trainers will do that today.

14 Jul 2010 3:57 PM
russell maiers

Wow, that was a good read Steve. A lot of your story was about Bobby and rightly so. It made my day though that you wrote about that particular breeders cup classic. I never found many good reads after it and I still believe to this day that it was the finest group of horses to run. I was cheering for Azeri and wish she would have got off the rail which was really dead, but what Ghostzapper showed me was almost unbelievable. Roses in May was tremendous and Pleasently Perfect and Perfect Drift, well they never gave up. Azeri tired on the rail, still beat a lot of really good horses. You brought back great memories of a great horse race and again thanks. It was one of those races for weeks before it was ran that I just was going nuts waiting for. Especially when I had read Azeri was skipping over lonestar effortlessly and our dear Bobby said she would'nt beat a horse that day. But back to reality, Ghostzapper truely was one in a million and what a field of horses he showed his stuff to that hot day.

14 Jul 2010 4:22 PM

Ghostzapper, is the only horse to win the Metropolitan Mile and Breeders Cup Classic in the same year.  Just like his trainer, Bobby Frankel, who left us way to soon, Ghostzapper was on his way to doing some very special things, when his career was derailed by injury. It's just a reminder of how fragile these animals can be, and how important it is for us as fans, to truly admire and celebrate the spirit of these great warriors. For the horses who continually lay it down, and put on a show, for all of us to enjoy. This one's for you!  

   I think GZ has a chance to produce some very nice horses in the breeding shed. His early speed and ability to sustain it, should attract some very nice mares. I would love to see a horse like Zenyatta bred to GZ.  

14 Jul 2010 4:28 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


 He's faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.(a quote from Boy's From Brazil if I'm not mistaken) Yeah, I'd say he's a very nice horse.

14 Jul 2010 6:41 PM
Steve Haskin

Thank you, Michelle and everyone.

Zookeeper, any shot at a book about Bobby I'm afraid went with him. No one knows enough about him to write a decent book. It would have to come from him. He was way too private.

Steve, one of the most amazing things about Bobby was his relationship with Khalid Abdullah. Who'd a thunk it.

14 Jul 2010 6:57 PM

Dr Drunkinbum,

You're an absolute sweetheart! But I'll settle for "he can flat out run" on any surface, preferably at ground level. Thank you though, your enthousiasm is very much appreciated.  :)

14 Jul 2010 7:04 PM
Steve Haskin

Dr. D, if Bobby knew you and felt comfortable around you he was great. If he didnt know you and you were just another reporter, you're right, he could be extremely

cold and distant. I never once "interviewed" Bobby. It was always just two guys talking, debating, discussing Italian restaurants or delicatessens. A couple of times on Derby Day and Belmont Day I fell asleep on his couch in his office. If you were anything but far left, you never got into politics with him for your own good.

14 Jul 2010 7:06 PM

Mr Haskin,

What a shame! No book... I guess we'll just have to be content with the bits and pieces we have. Maybe you'll delight us some more with whatever other anecdotes you have in your "tale cellar". This enigmatic man has many, many fans. The fascination did not leave with him.

What a better world it would be if we could all behave towards each other the way Bobby Frankel and Kalid Abdullah did. They had common ground: love of the horse and for them, it was enough to put everything else aside. Remarkable!

14 Jul 2010 7:34 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


   Very interesting comments about Frankel's interactions, and beliefs. I knew him only as a fan seeing him on TV at the track and in interviews. I liked what I saw of his demeanor, the way he carried himself, even though I was uncomfortable a few times right along with the interviewer. A book with a chapter each(or more) on all of the different trainers you have been around and admired is the one I think would be great. But then again, I'm quite happy with the articles. Maybe a book isn't worth the effort, or isn't necessary. Your comment about discussing Italian Restaurants sounds familar.

14 Jul 2010 8:10 PM

There was also an argument over the value of corned beef over pastrami featured on the "And They're Off" show following Frankel's death. That's where I learned about his political views. I promise that if I meet Bobby in "horse-lover heaven" I won't go near the subject! I've been warned!

14 Jul 2010 9:26 PM
Mike Relva


Question? What does Bethenny have to do with this blog? Nothing.

14 Jul 2010 9:41 PM












14 Jul 2010 10:39 PM
Matthew W

I just wish when they had that meeting, before the race, it would have been posted in the form--I'm sure there would've been a whole lot less money bet on Pleasantly Perfect to win--had bettors (like me) been privy to the agreement--on paper, it looked like they would hook, like Roses In May would by trying for the win, instead of settling for the place--after the post race comments, I was (and still am) steamed about that--also, I am critical of the high Beyers for a race like that--he was unchallenged to the far turn and ran a huge race--if Roses In May had looked him in the eye, maybe he would've won easy, anyway--but, alas, he did not, and so we'll never know....

14 Jul 2010 11:55 PM
Matthew W

Best horse since Bid was Candy Ride....

15 Jul 2010 12:14 AM

Whew! Steve I'm exhaused from reading this article (twice). I feel like I just ran the race. Excellent reading as always. You tell a story like Vin Scully calls a baseball game.

Ghostzapper was a brilliant colt, but I agree with a few of you who suggested that he didn't do enough to earn the title of greatness. He is however, arguebly one of the top 3 horses in recent history. I think Candy Ride was also brilliant but his career was cut short by injuries as well. Throw in Invasor and those are my top 3 of the past 10 years or so.

I still don't think any of the horses of this generation could compete with the greats of the 60's and 70's. Since I am probably one of old timers in this game, the opportunity to relive this memory so eloquently told by Mr. Haskin has made my day.........

15 Jul 2010 2:46 AM

I started following racing in 89'.  The three trainers I was most impressed with in my formative years were Frankel, D Wayne Lukas, and Dick Mandela.

Frankel's great handicapping skills were obvious in his ability to place his horses.  By the 90s, when he was running a national stable, he would stable his horses at their most perfered tracks, and point them towards the biggest races at these tracks.  Tinners Way and Skimming are good examples.  Those two horses absolutely loved Del Mar, and Frankel knew this.  He ran them lightly for the first 6 months of the year, but had them peaking for the Pacific Classic, a race both won twice.  It's also not a coincidence that Milwaukee Brew won the Santa Anita Handicap twice.  Only 3 horses have won the Santa Handicap more than once, only 2 have won the Gold Cup more than once, and 2 have won the Pacific Classic more than once.  Of those 7 horses, 3 were trained by Frankel.  Conversely, with horses like Ghostzapper and Sightseek who disliked Santa Anita and the other Cali tracks, he sent them back East were they combined for 11 grade 1 wins.

My only complaint with Frankel is that because he was such a good handicapper and so good at placing his horses, he often would enter horses in a race only to then scratch; Frankel liked to keep his options open until the last second.  Why did I not like this?  Well, as a fan who was excited to see particular horses run in person, it was always disappointing to arrive at the track and find that one or more of the "featured" horses had would not be making an appearance.

15 Jul 2010 4:13 AM

Love this piece

15 Jul 2010 7:31 AM
Steve Haskin

Matthew, you obviously did not comprehend the article or the dialogue if you think Ramsey or anyone was content to finish second. You no doubt thought they should go out there in :45 and kill each other just so you and Pleasantly Perfect could win. They did what they thought was best for their horse and, as Ramsey stated, "May the best horse win." If he couldnt win he'd rather finish second than out of the money.

15 Jul 2010 8:38 AM
Fran Loszynski

Great tribute to Mr. Frankel. The old-school trainers are few now. Some literally lived with their horses at the track, shared a sandwich and a carrot in their stall. If one of B. Frankel's horses were hurt he knew it before the horse did. I was fortunate to meet Marion Gross at Gainesway Farm the stallion manager. As a young boy he left his home in the Kentucky hills and looked for a job at Gainesway. He stayed forty-years. He brought his knowledge of farm horses with him and knew every horse's quirks. These are the type of horsemen that the racing industry is built on.  

15 Jul 2010 8:52 AM

@GunBow, do you remember when Frankel refused to allow his horses to train at DM?  He was upset with the track condition and said, with all of the horses trying to train on that narrow track, it was too dangerous. So, he worked them up north and vanned them down for races.

However, do you recall his win with Marquetry in the Pacific Classic, I believe?  He had entered two, with the lesser of the two to be the rabbit.  Both of their names began with M.  There was a touted Eastern shipper, who, stumbled out of the gate, and was left out of the race.  The rabbit went to the lead and never looked back.  I believe the two Frankel runners ended up running 1-2.  This was before Tinners Way's win.  One other thing, as the two were not coupled, the winner paid a very nice price.

However, I do have a soft spot, in a masochistic way for Frankel, as the most money I ever lost was on his Buen Chico. At the time, I had more money than brains, and, I tried to play DM turf as HP.  Made the mistake of trying to play catch up, so, I loaded up on win, place on BC.  He ran 3rd.  I took my losses and started to really study handicapping.  It was a few years before I made the money back when Buen Chico descended into that great level of past classers who can earn you some nice change at the claiming level.  So, I place any ability I now have on Mr Frankel and his Buen Chico.

15 Jul 2010 9:02 AM
Billy's Empire

What a race it was. I remember wathcing it on the Jumbotron at Keeneland. Zapper was the man. Thanks for the story Steve. I think that was one of the Keeneland/UK football game days. can't wait for the fall meet! Best time of the year, IMO.

15 Jul 2010 10:32 AM
Dr Drunkinbum


   I have great difficulty reading all upper case. Can you please use primarily lower case next time you write an article about Britney Spears? You obviously have knowledge and insight that would be enjoyable to read.

15 Jul 2010 11:35 AM
Ted from LA


15 Jul 2010 1:34 PM

I have to make a confession here.  After Smarty lost the Belmont in 2004 I was soooo disappointed, disillusioned and disgusted I never watched races the rest of the year.  I missed Ghostzapper.  So, looks like I'll have to pull up some video and watch.  Smarty just broke my heart for racing that year.

15 Jul 2010 1:47 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


   I entirely understand what you are saying. A similar thing happened to me with Smarty. Nothing else meant much for awhile. It took some time for me to get back into the swing of things racing wise.

Ted from LA

   I barely understood a word you said in your Britney Spears article because it was in the improper format. Your proctology reports are unacceptable for the same reason. Shape up or start looking for a new job. And quit reusing the same gloves !!!!!

15 Jul 2010 3:16 PM

Funny one Dr D! I will do better just for you next time.

15 Jul 2010 4:07 PM

Matthew W.

       I am with you about Candy Ride. The way he won the Pacific Classic was breathtaking. He went by Megdalia D' Oro like he was standing still.      

15 Jul 2010 6:14 PM
Brian Russell

It's been nearly 6 years and I'm tired of reading about this supposed conspiracy between Frankel and Ramsey.  I won't get into details but Frankel did not convince Ramsey of anything.  The Roses in May strategy was decided long after he and Frankel had spoken.  He did not want Roses In May to clear and have Ghostzapper outfoot the rest early (which would have happened), be able to stalk him from the outside and, thus, dictate matters.  Again, I know this for a fact and I have known Mr. Ramsey for years and he would rather run last than 2nd.  Please stop this urban myth.  Enough already!

15 Jul 2010 8:04 PM

What an amazing and engaging story.  Please write more about the legendary Mr. Frankel, or better yet, write that book everyone is begging for...PLEASE!

15 Jul 2010 8:16 PM

Brian Russell,

Help me out, here! If the conversation between Mr. Frankel and Mr. Ramsey took place 2 days before the BC how can the strategy for Roses in May have been decided long AFTER.(Two days doesn't leave much time for long after) Did you mean long before? Well, that's exactly what Mr. Haskin is saying in his article. They both thought the same thing. They agreed to agree. (What a concept!)"Let's not take each other out by running crazy fractions. But when the real running starts, let the best horse win." There's no conspiracy there and Mr. Haskin did not in any way insinuate that there was one. Maybe if you read the column carefully you will see that "this urban myth" is NOT being perpetuated by Mr. Haskin. Quite the contrary!

15 Jul 2010 9:14 PM

As to Roses in May finishing second, I'm sure Mr. Ramsey was convinced that, if not pushed to the limit early, his colt would win the race. The problem for Roses was that Zapper could do it better.

There's no shame in finishing second... but when a good horse finishes last, it's usually because something is wrong and I'm sure Mr. Ramsey would not like that better.

15 Jul 2010 10:03 PM
Matthew W

Deacon, yeah, maybe I should've said "Candy Ride would likely be my pick to win the race (12 best since Bid), but to say best since Bid--no way, it would have to be a horse like Skip Away, you have to have 20ish races...hmmmm, now who would be closing out her career in the Classic sitting on 20ish races...haha, I love Zenyatta, but Bid was a whole different animal....

15 Jul 2010 10:11 PM
Matthew W

Urban myth? When he says, right after the race, that he and Bobby had discussed who would go???

15 Jul 2010 10:12 PM

Whenever the greatest horses of all-time get mentioned, I always wonder why Tiznow doesn't come up more often in these conversations. First, horse to win consecutive Breeders Cup Classics. First Californian bred to win the BC Classic. The way he fended off Giants Causeway and Sakhee in thrilling stretch duel battles, to win B2B BC Classics, is really quite amazing, when you go back and watch the film, on these two races. He was one of those horses who did not like to be passed and if he saw you, he wouldn't let you by. Not only was Tiznow a great runner, but is also a well accomplished sire. He sired 2009 Dubai World Cup Champion, Well Armed, as well as many other stakes winners. In my opinion he rates as one of the Top 25, All-Time greats.      

16 Jul 2010 2:21 AM
Ken Reed DVM

Great story-you knew him well-I always enjoyed working with him-I remember sitting on a bale of straw with you and Bobby before the race in Dallas-Ken

16 Jul 2010 7:18 AM

What timing for me to read this just after hearing an At The Races replay this morning from when Bobby Frankel passed away.  Thanks, Steve, for another gem of a piece.

16 Jul 2010 7:31 AM
Fran Loszynski

To TerriV:

I was heartbroken when I read your blog about Smarty Jones. I loved that horse too (before Afleet Alex) and still watch his foals. You must have been elated though to see Backtalk in the Kentucky Derby! That was meant to be and the chances of a racehorse being in the Derby are pretty chancey. Take heart-I always remember what my Mom said: "It's not if the racehorse wins the race but if he ran the race with heart!" That always seems to make me feel better. You should try and visit Smarty in retirement it would help.

Bobby Frankel would have loved you as a fan for his horses too.

16 Jul 2010 7:52 AM

Great article Steve. I'm not sure it's fair to characterize Bobby as a guy who didn't like most people though. Because he was a street guy he developed a natural suspicion of strangers but he was fiercely loyal to those who became his friends.

16 Jul 2010 9:27 AM
Steve Haskin

Thanks so much, Ken, that was so vintage Bobby.

I don't understand why some people, other than being natural conspiracy theorists, are insistent on reading in this story what isn't there.

Matthew, so far, everything you have pointed out has been wrong. Are you reading the actual words that are written or just interpreting them the way you want?

Zookeeper, unless I'm reading this this wrong, I think Brian is agreeing, considering he said supposed conspiracy, and that Frankel did not convince Ramsey of anything (he was more interested in the fractions than someone running with him) remember, Roses in May never let Ghostzapper get a clear lead, he was lapped on him most of the way.

Giddyup, I never said Bobby didnt like most people. If he liked 98 out of 100 people he still liked his horses and dogs more than he liked most people. The key phrase is "more than" not a blanket statement like he he didnt like most people. I merely compared his like of people to his like of his animals

16 Jul 2010 10:21 AM

Mr. Haskin,

Thank you for trying to clear the fog out of my brain. I read the comment several times trying to make sense of it and came up with the same conclusion every time. Maybe my comprehension has gone out the window... along with a few other things. :)

16 Jul 2010 10:39 AM
Steve Haskin

Zookeeper, that's just my interpretation. I could be wrong.

16 Jul 2010 10:45 AM

I've just read your article re Lookin At Lucky and the Haskell. Wow! What a field this will be if everything ends up the way it's planned.

Was glad to hear the LaL's problem has been solved and that his training did not suffer too much. He's one of my many, many favorites. If they all show up in the Haskell, I'll have a heck of a time picking just one. Not a bad problem to have, come to think of it!

16 Jul 2010 11:14 AM
Matthew W

Tiznow, at 1 1/4, was tough--he took a while to get his head in the game--when he did, he was one tough animal....from Aug of his 3yold season to his retirement he was hard to beat--and he paid well in both Classics...

16 Jul 2010 12:03 PM
Brian Russell

Zookeeper.  You are correct in that Mr. Haskin is not spreading the "urban myth" but several sour grapes PP bettors have for 6 years, including one poster here.

16 Jul 2010 12:17 PM

Hi Steve - Thanks for another great article!  

I was at the Breeders Cup in 2004, it was a great day for horse and racing lovers.  I'm sure Ramsey and Romans had their own game plan for Roses In May to win no matter what Frankel said.  Some people seem to misinterpret or speculate even when the words and content are extremely clear.

I can tell you, on BC day Ghostzapper was on nearly everyone's lips as the 'fastest horse in the country.'  It was repeated over and over by many there that day.  And on that day he proved it.  If you saw him in the paddock you would have seen the 'look of eagles' in his eyes and face.

People should enjoy his accomplishments and survival, instead comparing him with horses of another time when breeding and training was different.  I celebrate Ghostzapper every time I see a picture of him, or his babies in the Blood-Horse.

16 Jul 2010 12:31 PM
Fran Loszynski

I hope Afleet Again runs in the Haskell because he is going to win it.  Oh  oh   here come the e-mails get ready Steve.  Why Afleet Again?  He is a "Seabiscuit"  He only needs "alot" of competition not a little. Great article on how Lucky is getting ready. He's a lovable horse isn't he! He'll enjoy shaking hoofs with Afleet Again as he spars for the finish. Go Afleet Again. Too bad Bobby Frankel couldn't be in this one. This is his kind of race.

16 Jul 2010 12:54 PM

Ghostzapper is top ten of all time... yet I think he would have trouble with Sunday Silience and Easy Goer and Candy Ride would have giving him all he could handle if they would have met. In my opinion at a mile Easy Goer is untouchable in the past 30 years and the only Secretariat would have beat him at that distance, not Spectacular Bid or The Slew. Same thing could be said at 1 1/2 mile Secretariat-Easy Goer than everything is a mistery, I dont think the Zapper is as powerful past 10F, he never ran pasf such distance. having said that all other distances I think the Zapper is quite formidable!! Quality Road reminds me of Zapper, just that I think he might be able to go 12 furlongs because of his built but he might not prove it ever since 12f gr.1 races dont exist anymore...and please someone tell me why he didnt run in the Suburban?? he would have won that in a workout!!!

16 Jul 2010 1:20 PM
Soldier Course


My heart was also broken after Smarty Jones lost the 2004 Belmont Stakes, not for myself but for Smarty because he so greatly deserved to win. I suffered for him and cried many tears, something I had not done in decades. I will never get over this sorrow, but Smarty is worth all of it.

Each year that passes without another Triple Crown winner proves over and over what Smarty's effort that day meant. There's a quote in the book "Racing Days" by Brendan Gill that has comforted me: History abounds with the almost. And Smarty Jones is the greatest "almost" that ever raced for the Triple Crown. That prize shed its glory in Smarty's hoofprints at Belmont Park.  

16 Jul 2010 1:30 PM
Steve Haskin

That was a sad day for racing. I felt so badly for Smarty because it was as if he couldnt figure out what had happened. He runs a third quarter in a ridiculous :22 4/5, his 1 1/4-mile time would have been the 7th fastest Ky. Derby ever run, and he gets run down, staggering home. His legs were shaking in the test barn after the race. Those three jocks did a number on him, especially one in particular.

16 Jul 2010 2:22 PM
Fran Loszynski

See Steve there are things we would have never known especially about Smarty Jones shaking in the test barn; we can always count on you for the greatest of detail. But as I've said before my heart was "shaking" when I saw Smarty Jones son and Afleet Alex's son side by side in the Kentucky Derby walking down the turf. Just think Smarty's racing career changed for his son.  That was a sight to go down in the annals of racing history. Good and happy tears were shed that day! I know we're getting off the beaten track about this concerning B. Frankel; but then again, maybe he is in every story like this.

16 Jul 2010 3:02 PM

I take comfort in the knowledge that Smarty has forgotten all about the Belmont. When I saw him at Three Chimneys he was a happy camper. Lots of girlfriends and frequent visits from his adoring public. His caretakers looked smitten by him also. He is dearly loved by all.

We're the ones that are still sad every time his name is mentioned. So, I try to remember what I saw at the farm. An adorable* looking stallion very content and totally oblivious to the pain we still feel over his valiant if unsuccessful attempt at winning the Triple Crown.

Believe me, all he cares about is where the next carrot or peppermint is coming from and when will those darling mares be in season again. Be happy for him! He has a great life!

* yes, he is still adorable looking! The cutest, by far!!!  

16 Jul 2010 3:50 PM

Steve.....I'm glad you said the three jocks did a number on Smarty, one in particular.  That always stood out for me and in a way they did their part in preventing valuable horse racing history from happening because Smarty would have been a deserving Triple Crown Champion.  The way they went after him seemed to me that it had nothing to do with THEM winning the race and turned me off for quite a while.  Smarty was without question one of the best of his generation in recent times.  Like Point Given, his career finished far too early.

16 Jul 2010 3:51 PM
Soldier Course

I wonder if those "three jocks" ever stop to think that horse racing may have avoided the disheartening slump it's in today if Smarty Jones had won the Triple Crown.

16 Jul 2010 4:18 PM

Hi Soldier Course! The mention of Smarty Jones seems to always bring you out. Maybe I should type his name once in a while to see if you're still reading these blogs. lol! Nice to hear from you!

As far as these 3 jocks realizing the error of their ways... I doubt it!

16 Jul 2010 4:49 PM
Soldier Course

Hi Zookeeper:

So you've figured me out about sweet Smarty! He's been such a wonderful and inspiring chapter in my life. And going to Lexington and seeing him at Three Chimneys has helped a lot.

My recollection of the "three jockeys" was that there were only two involved in the shameful incident, those being the riders of Eddington and Rock Hard Ten. I am assuming that Birdstone's jockey was not counted among the blameworthy ones, those  who pushed Smarty with no chance of winning in their own right.    

16 Jul 2010 8:17 PM


I always considered the jock on Purge as the third one because early on it was Purge then Rockhard Ten then Eddington then Rockhard Ten again who took their shots, never giving Smarty a breather.  Poor Edgar on Birdstone was very apologetic and almost in tears after the race.  I was also critical of Elliott for his ride.  In the Preakness and Derby Smarty was allowed to sit off the pace before making his move and his romp in the Preakness was decisive (11 1/2L).  I often wondered why he just didn't track the speed for awhile before making his move instead of pushing Smarty throughout like he did because Smarty had the stamina to win that race and didn't give in until late.  For me that defeat was troubling.  It left a pain in the pit of my stomach because Smarty, from humble beginnings, was as honest as they come and was the type that everyone loved.

16 Jul 2010 10:48 PM

Matthew W.

         I always respect your insights. I was comparing Ghostzapper to the horses of the past 10 years or so. No way is he is the same class as the "Bid", at least in my mind. The "Bid" ran in 1979-1980 I believe, thats going back 30 years plus. Two Triple Crown winners in 3 years and the "Bid" should have been #3. His name "Spectacular" describes him perfectly. We are now talking about one of the all time greats, throw in Dr. Fager, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Man O War and Swaps to that mix. There are a few others but Ghostzapper along with Invasor and Candy Ride were my top 3 in the past 10 years or so. Before that we had obviously Point Given, Sunday Silence, Easy Goer and Holy Bull along with Skip Away and Cigar.

Bibby Frankel was a classy trainer who knew his stuff. You always feared his horses in big races. He knew how to get a horse ready to run about as good as anyone. Charlie Whittingham was also a brilliant trainer. Like great horses, classy trainers are hard to find and I appreciate every one of them who made his mark on our great sport.

Again Steve, great informative article written so professionly...........  

17 Jul 2010 1:26 AM
Soldier Course

Off-topic, but thought everyone would like to know that there was a great interview with Laura Hillenbrand on NPR "Weekend Edition" this morning (7/17/10), and it was all Zenyatta!

Hillenbrand says, "There's a rapture gathering around this horse." This was such good positive exposure, not only for Zenyatta but also for racing.

17 Jul 2010 12:15 PM

Correction LAZMANNICK' Cigar did Start his career on Dirt.In his Maiden debut AS  3 year old at Santa Anita he finished seventh Beaten by 13 lenghts. but 3 months later came back and Beat Golden Slewpy by 2 and 1/4 in 1:09.2. And then came the Torcherous 11 Race strech on Turf.

17 Jul 2010 1:15 PM


You're right, but I think they always thought that Cigar would a turf horse.  His third start to his 13th start, 11 eleven races in all, were on turf.  He won an allowance at Delmar, was 2nd and 3rd in two G3's and 11th of 14 in the G1 Hollywoood Derby.  It wasn't until they raced him on dirt that he excelled.  From that first race when he returned to dirt won his 16 in a row.

A couple of corrections with Ghostzapper though.  His career lasted 2 1/2Y from 2 to 5, not 3 1/2Y, and he never ran 6F in 1.08.1, it was 1.09.1.

17 Jul 2010 2:29 PM


Talk about Cigar.....I remember the first time I ever heard of him.  It was during that stretch of races on turf and it was at Saratoga.  The reason I remember him so vividly was I was watching the races on TV at the off-track and Tom Durkin was introducing the field in the post parade, a allowance race NW3.  I was checking something out in the form and wasn’t even watching the parade, just listening, and Durkin said:  “And here’s a horse with the funny name of Cigar”.   I didn't even look up.  It was just something that sort of stuck with me, why, probably just because of Durkin’s comment.  Strange that this horse with the funny name of Cigar who at the time had only won 2 of 10 races to that point in his career and looked like he would be less than average at best would turn out to be one of the top horses all time.

17 Jul 2010 2:43 PM

LAZMANNICK' Like the Immortal Seabiscuit before Cigar, and the Legendary Secretariat. Maybe Cigars story will be good enough one day to get his own movie. But then again, a few million Horses and a 100 later, I GUEST Hollywood is finally tapping into a profiable and good thing.

17 Jul 2010 3:45 PM
Between Friends

Soldier Course, thanks for letting us know about the NPR interview with Laura Hillenbrand about Zenyatta. Otherwise  many of us would have missed it. It was interesting to hear her discuss the positive impact that Zenyatta has provided for the sport. Reading Steve Haskin's columns and blogs are a must for fans who love this sport and the horses involved because you always will learn something.  

17 Jul 2010 6:55 PM

That's a great interview, the "exercise rider" in the youtube video she mentioned is her regular rider Mike Smith.  I've seen that video multiple times.  When they start rolling, it starts to sound like a plane taking off, it's a cool video.

17 Jul 2010 10:48 PM

Thank you for the heads up on the interview with Laura Hillenbrand. The whole thing was very nice especially the news that she has a new book coming out in November: "Unbroken". Can NOT wait!

18 Jul 2010 9:57 AM
Soldier Course

For those who have may missed the NPR Zenyatta interview from yesterday, the NPR website,, has posted the audio and transcript of the interview.

Steve, I emailed you a link to the audio, and hope you got it.

18 Jul 2010 11:35 AM
Dr Drunkinbum

Speaking of Smarty, I couldn't stand the sight of Nick Zito for awhile. The TV was turned off if he was about to be interviewed, and anyone that turned it back on while the interview was still on is no longer with us. It's not like that anymore. I like Nick again. For awhile it was all about, Here I Sit Brokenhearted, tried to........but Only.........

18 Jul 2010 6:01 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


  Normally I wouldn't mention this but you seem to be a physicality bettor also. Koolnquick at Hollywood Saturday-30-1. I bet based solely on looks. Maybe you have the simulcast replay.

18 Jul 2010 6:40 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Baffert and Garcia strike again with a smashing debut win by 2yo colt "Smash." 7th race at HP 7-18-10. He's by Smart Strike and Dixieland Band.

18 Jul 2010 7:34 PM

Dr Drunkinbum,

Wow! What a score! Congratulations! Sorry, I don't have the replay. I was so scattered yesterday between Colonial Downs, Delaware Park and Arlington that I didn't get to HP races until later. By the time I got to it, I was way behind because the races I won were chalky and I blew it in the Arl. Hcp.

I made up for it by betting Skipshot to win in the Swaps. Wish you could have clued me in about Koolnquick. At 30-1, no matter how good he looked, I probably would not have bet him on my own. Good to see Stute in the winner circle. He had another one again today Sky'squickscore. Didn't bet that one either. Both horses by the same sire for the same connections. Hmmm! Interesting...

In the Sunset Hcp. I'm betting on the #5 Buenos Dias, McAnally, Brice Blanc. Let's see if I can break even again today. :)

18 Jul 2010 7:53 PM

Dr D.,

Yes I saw Smash and shuddered...

18 Jul 2010 7:54 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


     I didn't bet Koolnquick until less than a minute to post when his behavior before the gate was the clincher.  Many of my bets are last minute. That cost me a 47-1. I thought I got the bet in but didn't wait to see if it went through and was quite happy when he won, until I saw that the bet went in too late. I was jumping up and down going crazy for nothing. It's not wise to cut it that close. My favorite bet is 11-1.  I  try to stay away from low odds. Less than 2-1 is ridiculous. I'd like to know who those people are that bet so much on 1-5, and 1-9 horses. I don't see the point. So SA is AW through the Spring Meet. Can't wait to see Runflatout run. I loved Skipshot to win the Swaps and was going to bet him until I saw what Summer Movie looked like at 14-1, so I switched my bet. He almost got them too. But I felt dumb afterward. Good pick on your part.

18 Jul 2010 10:49 PM

Dr Drunkinbum,

If Runflatout likes the Del Mar surface, it could be as early as July 24th. He's going there this week so Carla can see whether he handles it ok. It can be quirky.

Yes Santa Anita is staying with Pro Ride until the spring of 2011. Afterwards, who knows what Mr. Stronach will do?

I can't believe it's already mid-summer and that Saratoga & DM are right around the corner. Exciting racing ahead!

P.S. Sorry you missed out on that bet! Wish I had passed on Buenos Dias... :(

18 Jul 2010 11:41 PM
Fran Loszynski


You just made alot of Smarty Jones fans that were sad very happy for him.  I'm sure they feel alot better with your Three Chimneys retirement story.  Good Show!!!

19 Jul 2010 12:36 PM
Soldier Course

Dr. Drunkinbum:

I haven't heard your "brokenhearted" saying since 1959, when I first saw it at age 11 in the girls' bathroom at St. Christopher's summer camp, Seabrook Island, SC.

About Nick Zito ... I always have respected him, and also Edgar Prado, despite Smarty's loss.

19 Jul 2010 1:30 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Soldier Course

   Thanks for remembering way back to 1959. The only place I ever saw it was in a bathroom. Numerous bathrooms way back when. The last time I saw it was 1979. I have alwasy respected, admired and appreciated Nick Zito also except for a brief period where I lost my mind in the midst of a broken heart. It was irrational. I wouldn't react the same now I don't think. Well I don't know how I'd react. I really loved Smarty and that story and I couldn't believe what I was seeing when he was caught. Shock and devastation. I had never reacted quite the same to anything where no one died.

19 Jul 2010 2:38 PM

I braced myself and watched Smarty's Belmont again to see if I could be a little more clear-headed about it.

It seems to me that Smarty moved too soon on his own. If he had stayed behind Purge and Rock Hard Ten the race may have had a different outcome. It appears that Stewart Elliott tried to restrain him, to no avail. Smarty was going to the lead and that was that.

I always have a hard time accepting that horses are "ganging up" on another. I tend to see it as their jockeys trying to win the race.

In this case, Jerry Bailey on Eddington and Alex Solis on Rock Hard Ten, may simply have tried to stay with Smarty (after he took the lead) and not let him get away as he had done in the Derby and the Preakness. Am I being too naive???

Dr Drunkinbum,

I made a mistake on a tentative race for Runflatout. It's July 31, not 24. Oh! those senior moments...

19 Jul 2010 2:44 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


  Thanks for the Runflatout info. Will mark the calendar. I haven't been able to bring myself to watch the Smarty Belmont replay. I only saw it live(on TV). I don't know if I can stand it. I have no idea what the jockeys were thinking, what their game plan or motive was. I don't think it was a conspiracy. The jockeys you mentioned are great jockeys and class acts in my opinion. If I recall correctly, I thought that Smarty was going way too fast and I wanted him to slow down. Still, in the stretch I thought he had dusted them off and would win. Sometimes there is no choice but to let a horse go if fighting him will take too much out of him. I've seen a ton lose because the jockey was strangling the horse and giving him zero chance, whereas he would have had a chance if he let him go, even too fast. Back to Smarty-I do remember thinking that it wasn't fair for Birdstone to skip The Preakness to get ready for The Belmont. I thought it was only fair that he run in all three. I no longer think that way. I probably only thought that way that year. I was mad, sad, and we'd been had.

19 Jul 2010 6:02 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Zookeeper- Did you see the article at DRF today !!!  "Start with Baffert to find top juveniles."  It says this about Runflatout, "has been training sensationally at Santa Anita." You can sing, "I'm looking over a four leaf clover that I overlooked before."  If he doesn't run at Del Mar, it's no big deal. SA is the place to be, and it's just around the corner. I'm sure Carla will make the right choice. She's very smart.

19 Jul 2010 7:17 PM

Dr Drunkinbum,

Once he made the lead, Smarty was doomed as the pressure did not let up until Keddington and Rock Hard Ten were done, he had run them into the ground. By then Smarty, all by himself on the lead, had very little left himself and could not respond to Birdstone's challenge. He had won two battles waged at the same time but he lost the war. What a courageous horse!

At the time, I was so stricken that I did not fully comprehend what had happened. I would not watch the race again until this year. It was that painful! Now that years have passed, watching it with open eyes and mind, I realize and appreciate his effort even more.

Besides, I have another memory: the happy, content Smarty Jones of Three Chimneys who would never again try to give more than his legs could stand. That happy ending never fails to make me smile.  :)

19 Jul 2010 7:18 PM

Dr Drunkinbum,

Look at the times on our last 2 posts: 7:17PM and 7:18PM. Eery!

Thank you for the heads up on the DRF mention of Runflatout! I hadn't seen it. Good of you to spot it and bring it to my attention. You're the best!

20 Jul 2010 12:19 AM
Fran Loszynski

I recommended fans of Smarty to go see him at Three Chimneys and Zookeeper's story should help but please go visit Birdstone, he is a deserved champion.  When I saw his big black eyes staring at me and his stature, he is truly a champion and it was his time to win the Belmont. That race may have given him the distinction to sire two great foals Mine That Bird and Summer Bird.  On another note I hope they have a race or racehorse named after Bobby Frankel "Let's Be Frankel"racehorse or  Stakes! It would be a nice gesture.  I'm sure there will be a race named for him.

20 Jul 2010 8:30 AM
Dr Drunkinbum


  We've posted before at almost the same time and written almost the same thing. Good point about Smarty. If only we dumb humans could get over losses as well as horses.

20 Jul 2010 12:29 PM

Great article.Zapper was a very good horse but could not shine Dr. Fager's shoes!

20 Jul 2010 2:13 PM
Soldier Course

Dr Drunkinbum:

Like your experience, Smarty's loss was the saddest moment of my life, other than the death of loved ones. It's the one moment in my life I wish I could change.  

Smarty's story was so noble. His connections were all such decent people. After the Belmont Stakes, Mrs. Chapman said her biggest regret was what Smarty's loss cost his fans. She knew we were all grieving.

Not many people caught this, but did you know that Time magazine named Smarty Jones as an honorable mention for its Person of the Year in December 2004?

Steve, thanks for allowing Smarty's fans to have yet another catharsis here. I think it would be OK with Bobby, too.

21 Jul 2010 1:22 PM
Dr Drunkinbum

Soldier Course

   Normally I don't think much of Time's people of the year. Some that I noticed when I've seen the magazine lying around anyway, but that's great about Smarty being mentioned. Nothing can take away the pain of that loss although it's definitely less pain as time passes. Another Triple Crown winner won't help at all because then I'd think that Smarty should be on that list. It does help that he's happy and well. He went through a lot and is lucky to be alive. I can rationalize now but at the time the pain was excruciating and unbelievable. The Giants losing the 1962 World Series was bad but not nearly as bad as Smarty's loss. The catharsis continues. This blog has helped. I had it buried for quite a few years until recently. Now I'm actually dealing with it. You and Zookeeper should bill me for your psychiatry work. Fran too. With Zenyatta,who is my favorite filly/mare of all time, half the time I think she's going to lose when they're in the stretch, with Smarty I thought he had it, then it was, "no, no this can't be happening, get going Smarty, and slow down Birdstone." Then it was-"this can't have happened. I hope it was a bad dream."  But it wasn't a bad dream it was a nightmare, like when you're running away from the bad guys, but your legs won't move and you wake up sweating. I'm sure that's how Smarty felt. He just couldn't get those legs moving enough to beat the bad guy to the wire.

21 Jul 2010 2:21 PM
jon showtime

loved the story.

too bad only one bobby frankel from brooklyn.

love to hear about buddy jacobson. another real

good horseman.

21 Jul 2010 3:35 PM

Belmont Day was hot and Smarty was showing stress. His trainer used a German Hackmore and he normally was good with it but he was fighting with the bit in the paddock and the longer he fought it the more nervous he became. He was so uncomfortable in the post parade I did not place my bet on him, as I had planned. Instead I did not bet the Belmont at all. I was surprized that Smarty was as tough as he was. It did not surprize me that he lost. He tried his best. I will never forget how he changed horse racing fans in Philly. For miles the overpasses on I-95 were covered with people waiting for his horse trailer to pass by them. Philly Park had crowds at 6am! Parents with kids would hold their kids on their shoulders just so they could say they saw him. What a horse! God bless him.

21 Jul 2010 6:09 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


  You should have recieved the anti-venom spewing kit by now. The secretary of The Steve Haskin Fan Club mailed it months ago parcel post. I suppose it could have been hijacked, or come to think of it, the secretary quit the day after she supposedly mailed it. Maybe she absconded with it. I'll see if we can use an armed courier next time. Please accept our apologies. For being such a good sport we are sending you an official Captain Video laser gun with the holster. The holster is engraved by Captin Video himself. Keep sending in those letters and cereal box tops.

21 Jul 2010 7:21 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


  That was a very interesting story. Thanks. It's a shame about the bit. It's bad news when a horse gets focused on a negative, especially in the heat. That was a "no bet" race for me. I never bet on big favorites. Usually I would of found a horse to bet WS on against the favorite, but in that case there is no way I'm betting against Smarty. I don't bet against my favorite horses because it could be bad luck for the horse. The Belmont is never a given. How many Triple Crowns has it wiped out? What a tough race for a 3yo. Twenty horses in The Derby, plus the 1 1/2 mile Belmont, and the Preakness only two weeks after The Derby. It seems like it will be a miracle if anyone gets it again. The only horse other than Smarty I thought would get it was Spectacular Bid after the other 70's Triple Crowns. Then Eskendereya this year, if he got The Derby, I thought would get the Triple Crown. I hope you post on Haskin's blog more.

21 Jul 2010 7:31 PM
Stan M.

In the last fifty years, in my estimation, there has not been one horse who could compare to the GREAT "Dr Fager" when speaking of pure out and out freakish speed! Seeing was believing and I wish you all could have been around to see this remarkable equine athlete!

22 Jul 2010 7:51 AM

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