The Hall of Fame trainer has enjoyed remarkable success this month. It began with Milwaukee Brew's stunning upset of Congaree in the $1-million Santa Anita Handicap on March 1. Then it was on to New Orleans where long shot Peace Rules knocked off Kafwain and Badge of Silver to win the $750,000 Louisiana Derby on March 9. Finally last Saturday, in the coup de grace, Empire Maker rolled to a 9 ¾-length victory in the Florida Derby – the biggest winning margin in the history of the storied race – and is now the favorite for the 129th Kentucky Derby on May 3.
This is nothing new for Frankel. The 61-year-old Brooklyn native has won the last three Eclipse Awards as the nation's outstanding trainer, and at Santa Anita he's been a fixture for decades. Frankel ranks second to Charlie Whittingham in all-time wins at Santa Anita with 755, and his 95 stakes wins place him behind only Whittingham, Ron McAnally and D. Wayne Lukas.
The nation's leading trainer this year with $3,079,387 in purses, Frankel can add to that total Saturday when he sends out probable favorite Megahertz in the $150,000 Santa Ana Handicap for fillies and mares.
Frankel has dominated the Santa Ana, a Grade II event at 1 1/8 miles on turf. He's saddled a record five winners – Spanish Fern (2000), See You Soon (1999), Wandesta (1995), Possibly Perfect (1994) and Gravieres (1992) – and has two chances to make it six.
Megahertz will be favored. A 4-year-old English-bred by Pivotal, she has a 6-3-2 record from 16 starts with earnings of $654,646 for owner Michael Bello. She has a 3-1-0 record from four starts on the Santa Anita turf course, including a recent second to stable mate Tates Creek in the Grade II San Gorgonio Handicap.
Regular rider Alex Solis will be on Megahertz at high weight of 117 pounds.
Frankel also trains Glia. A 4-year-old Kentucky-bred by A.P. Indy, Glia goes back to turf following a sixth in the Grade II El Encino Stakes on dirt. Her previous effort was a second in the Grade II Mrs. Revere on the turf at Churchill Downs.
French-bred Little Treasure is another contender. Trained by Laura De Seroux, the 4-year-old Night Shift filly has won two of three starts in the U.S., picking off graded victories at Del Mar and Arlington Park.
Another French horse, the vastly improved Garden in the Rain, also could be a factor. Trained by the red-hot Jeff Mullins, the 6-year-old Dolphin Street mare comes off her best effort yet, finishing second to Final Destination in the Grade Ii Buena Vista Handicap last month.
In a companion feature, 3-year-olds race 6 ½ furlongs in the San Pedro Stakes. The Bob Baffert-trained Rojo Toro, unbeaten in three starts, shortens in distance following a victory in the one-mile San Rafael Stakes.
The Santa Ana was won last year by Golden Apples, who went on to earn an Eclipse Award as best turf female. The runner-up was Starine, who captured the 2002 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
$150,000 Santa Ana Handicap (gr. IIT), fillies & mares, 4 & up, 1 1/8 mile on turf
PP. Horse, Rider, Wgt.
1. Garden In The Rain, Gary Stevens, 115
2. Dancing, Tony Farina, 111
3. Snowflake, David Flores, 115
4. Magic Mission, Corey Nakatani, 113
5. Glia, Jose Valdivia Jr., 114
6. Megahertz, Alex Solis, 117
7. Noches de Rosa, Mike Smith, 115
8. Splendeur, Victor Espinoza, 112