Frankel on Flute: 'I Believe in Reincarnation; She's Been Here Before''
Updated: Friday, November 9, 2001 1:18 PM
By Sean ClancyFrom The Saratoga Special, reprinted with permission
Posted: Wednesday, August 22, 2001 8:34 AM
Writing about horse racing is basically the art of trying to portray to the reader what the horse might have said or felt at a particular occasion. On Alabama day, it would have sounded something like, "How about I do it this way because I can." That's what Flute would have said to her trainer Bobby Frankel, jockey Edgar Prado and anybody who happened to get in the way of her Saturday stroll.
Flute decimated the $750,000 grade I race. She won by nearly five while leading at every call. The daughter of Seattle Slew, owned by Juddmonte Farms, broke like everybody else and before you knew it was on the lead. In her five previous starts, she never got a call in front until the stretch.
Announcer Tom Durkin said Flute with everything but a question mark as she took the field past the stands for the first time. She wasn't supposed to be in front. Not that she cared. Flute made it her race and liked it that way.
The issue was never in doubt. Prado gave her a couple of smacks for insurance but all he had to do was take a look at the wobbly chasers. Exogenous finished second through default while Two Item Limit was third.
Frankel unabashedly puts Flute at the top of his list. And that list, just the weekend list, includes The Seven Seas in the Beverly D., Senure in the Arlington Million, Skimming in the Pacific Classic and Aptitude in the Saratoga Breeders' Cup. Frankel had the whole world in his hands this weekend. At least racing world.
Of course before the Alabama, he looked more like he was hiding from that world. Sprinting, ducking, diving, hiding.
Camped out in racing secretary Mike Lakow's office, Frankel came out for a drink of water. Then went back in seclusion. He walked to the paddock to saddle Flaming West in the eighth and went straight back to the fort before they had even called, "Riders up."
All by himself, he moved like a thief, from cover to cover. Things were on his mind, races were to be won and horses were to be accounted for.
Flute did all the accounting that he would need on this day. The trainer has a refreshing connection to his stable star.
"If you were around her you'd see that she knows what's going on. Everybody thinks I'm nuts but she's reincarnated," Frankel said. "When I go to her she knows exactly who it is. I can stand there and play with her for an hour, as soon as I go away, she gets depressed over it. She's like a little kid when they see their parents leaving and they don't want to see them go. That's the way she is with me. From the day I met her. I really realized it because I had so much time on my hands at Churchill Downs and I started hanging around with her. That's when I realized it. She's my favorite."
Frankel talked about Flute while watching Flute on the replay inside the trustees room. A flute (no kidding) of champagne in one hand, a video tape of Flute in his pocket and a feeling about Flute which would make anybody want to be a horse trainer.
"Look at her ears. She's got one ear back, the left one flapping. She's not even extended. Just clocking them," Frankel said. "I don't know who she beat but Fleet Renee would have had a tough time with her today. I don't think Fleet Renee can fight it out with her. I know if they hook up turning for home, I know what would happen. This filly, they aren't getting by her."
Flute beat Fleet Renee, arguably the only other 3-year-old filly in the land within shouting distance of Flute, in their only meeting, the Kentucky Oaks. Michael Dickinson didn't enter her in the Alabama.
Frankel stood with Prado's agent Bob Frieze, had a conversation with Lakow, held his glass for a refill, gave about a dozen one line replies to well-wishers ("She's a superstar"; "She's got more in the tank"; "I left it up to him"; "I need to make reservations for dinner tonight"; "I wasn't worried"; "She's never let me down."), took congratulations from Indian Charlie, Don Orlando, Barry Schwartz, and answered questions about his favorite thing in the world.
Did you ever think about going someplace else today?
"Never a question. Never a question. Not even a doubt. Not even a second thought. I never thought about going anywhere else. That's why I'm here--because of Flute," Frankel said. "She's the greatest. And I'm not saying that because she won the Alabama. I said that before she won the Oaks."
Have you ever had one like her?
"No. No. No."
Why's she so special?
"Why? I don't know. I believe in reincarnation," Frankel said. "I don't know who she was but she's been here before. I don't know who. Coulda' been a woman, coulda' been anybody. I don't know who she was but she was here."
Now you start to believe him. He's drop-dead sincere. You wonder who it could have been. Something special that's for sure.
Frankel goes back to watching the television.
"She's just out there having a good time. That's all. Even Mike Lakow said she came back like she knew she won, clocking the crowd. She was proud of herself," Frankel said. "I've only seen her lose twice. Both times she tried as hard as she could. And she was younger then. In her first start, she got beat two lengths going six-and-a-half and she's not a sprinter. She's out of a mile-and-half mare. In her third start, I run her in a group I against Golden Ballet and she still tried to beat her. Golden Ballet put her away turning for home and shestill came back."
A cell phone is thrust into Frankel's hand.
"Hello . . . Proud of her? Proud of her? . . . Isn't she great? She's what I thought she was . . . Thank you . . . When's it going off? OK, I'll go watch it."
Frankel heads for the door to watch some race from somewhere else. As he's walking through the clubhouse, he's stopped for an autograph. He hands the champagne off and signs a program, right over Flute's name.
One more question. What about tomorrow with Aptitude? He's the favorite for Sunday's Saratoga Breeders' Cup. But he's no Flute.
"He's going great. Really doing great," Frankel said. "He's a horse. You know what I mean? He‚s a nice horse. But he's a horse. I've seen weaknesses in him. But I've never seen a weakness in her. I've seen weaknesses in Lido Palace. Understand? But I've never seen a weakness in her."
Understood.Contact Sean Clancy via e-mail at email@example.com or telephone at 518-581-1947.
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