Saratoga Race Report: Wonderful Music

Saratoga Race Report: Wonderful Music
Photo: AP/Dave Oxford
Flute impressed in Alabama.
Bobby Frankel figured he didn't have time for ceremony, like the trophy presentation following the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) on Aug. 19. After all, business is business.

So, Frankel, intent upon watching his Del Mar-loving Skimming in the $1-million Pacific Classic (gr. I), started running out of the winner's circle at Saratoga Race Course a moment after the photograph was taken. Business is, well, business.

Frankel was persuaded to stop for a moment, though, accepted the trophy that Aptitude earned with his 4 1/4-length victory, grinned for a handful of photographers, and bolted once again. Less than a minute later and in plenty of time to see Skimming win the race, Frankel plopped on a couch in front of a television in the office of New York Racing Association racing secretary Mike Lakow.

Skimming's victory completed a remarkable six days for Frankel, especially at Saratoga, where he won each of the three stakes he entered: the Adirondack (gr. II) on Aug. 13 with You; the Alabama (gr. I) on Aug. 18 with Flute, and then the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap with Aptitude. Earlier in the meet, Frankel won the Whitney Handicap (gr. I) with Lido Palace. Through the first 22 days of the meet, he had a record of seven wins, one second, and two thirds from 15 starters.

Within about 24 hours, Frankel horses won stakes with purses worth more than $2 million.

"This might be my best weekend," he said. "I don't remember a better weekend. I've won bigger races. I won the Arlington Milllion last year, which was $2 million, and the Japan Cup, which was $2 or $3 million. But it's more exciting when it comes with a few different horses."

Frankel, a member of racing's Hall of Fame since 1995, shook his head in disbelief that everything was working out for him.

"It's amazing how all of the horses that I've run in stakes are coming into the races in tremendous condition," he said. Frankel understands how many things can go wrong trying to get even one horse to a race.

"There are always problems, but I just hit a lucky streak," he said. "That's all it is."

In the 121st running of the Alabama, Juddmonte Farms' Flute gave Frankel the kind of jaw-dropping performance he was hoping for. With multiple grade I winner Fleet Renee out of the race with an injury, leaving a field of seven lacking genuine early speed, Flute went right to the lead out of the gate under jockey Edgar Prado. She never was seriously challenged, set all the fractions, and completed the 10 furlongs in 2:01.88, tying Maplejinsky's 2:01 4/5 as the fifth-fastest in the race's history.

Frankel said he was surprised when Flute ended up in front an eighth of a mile after the start.

"She broke and he took a hold of her and she just went on to the lead early," Frankel said. "He did the right thing not trying to fight her or anything. I didn't give him any specific instructions."

With Queen's Plate (Can-I) winner Dancethruthedawn stalking about a length and a half behind her, Flute set quarter-mile fractions of :23.74 and :47.26.

"I was never worried when she got to the lead," Frankel said. "I said, 'If she's the good filly I think she is, they're not going to catch her.' "

Flute covered a mile in 1:36.28, then opened up a six-length lead at the eighth pole. At the wire, Flute was 4 3/4 lengths in front of Exogenous. Two Item Limit finished third.

Brief as it was, there was one point in the race when Prado was worried.

"A little bit in the second turn when she relaxed so much, I thought she was going to loaf a little bit," he said. "I hit her one time and she took off again."

Frankel admits he has a soft spot for Flute, a homebred daughter of Seattle Slew out of the Blushing Groom mare Rougeur.

"She's got a great personality," he said. "It's like she was reincarnated, this filly. She loves people. When you come to visit her she perks up, and when you leave her she gets sad."

With her win in the Alabama to go with her Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) victory, Frankel figures Flute is at the top of the 3-year-old filly division.

"Right now she's the head of the class," he said, pausing for effect. "And whoever wins the next race will be at the head of the class."

After just a half-dozen races, he said she may already be the best dirt filly he has trained.

"I've got a lot of faith in her and she hasn't let me down yet," he said. "And you haven't seen the best of her. She's tough. When they make her run, she'll run."

Should that happen, Frankel will be calm and cool on the outside and nervous as can be on the inside, just like he was the day of the Alabama.

"It's because of this filly," he said. "I'm in love with this filly. She never lets me down and she's a champion."

Continued . . . .

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