Sprint Story (Cont.)
Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2001 10:46 AM
Posted: Wednesday, October 31, 2001 10:32 AM
Lanzman's son Blair, a Pokemon fan, suggested the name Squirtle, after his favorite character from the children's card phenomenon. When The Jockey Club rejected the name, Lanzman submitted Squirtle Squirtle. However, when the fax was received at the registry, the last "le" was cut off the transmitted form. Thus, the cute name Squirtle Squirt.
Sent to trainer Joe Garcia Jr., Squirtle Squirt showed considerable promise at two, leaving Lanzman to begin thinking Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I). After finishing a close fourth in his first start at Santa Anita, Squirtle Squirt rattled off four straight victories at Hollywood, the last three in stakes, including the Hollywood Juvenile Championship (gr. III). Lanzman, now paying his way in to Hollywood, had won his first stakes race and first graded stakes in the span of two months.
After running fourth in the Best Pal Stakes (gr. III) and seventh in the Del Mar Futurity (gr. II), Squirtle Squirt won the Barretts Juvenile Stakes. It was then the chips were discovered, and because of them Lanzman decided to make a trainer change.
Squirtle Squirt arrived with Frankel just after the first of the year and made his first start for his new trainer at Hollywood on May 2, going wire-to-wire in allowance company.
"His form was good when I got him, but then when I started to train him I said, 'Oh my God, what am I getting myself into?' The first time I ran him I wasn't sure how he was going to run, but he galloped," Frankel said.
The allowance race was the same distance as the Sprint and would be followed by four consecutive seven-furlong races--three of them losses by a combined 1 3/4 lengths--before the million-dollar Breeders' Cup race.
After finishing second in the May 28 Laz Barrera Stakes (gr. III) and July 1 Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II), Squirtle Squirt was given a seven-week breather. Shipped across the country to New York, he made all the running in the Kings Bishop Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga, giving Lanzman his first grade I victory. In his final Breeders' Cup prep, Squirtle Squirt set the pace in the Sept. 22 Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont but was caught late by Left Bank.
Before the Sprint, the 3-year-old colt had three half-mile workouts a week apart at Belmont, each one faster and the last two bullet moves. He went :48 flat on Oct. 7, :46 4/5 on Oct. 14, and :45 4/5 on Oct. 21.
The time of the last work was not by design. Squirtle Squirt went :21 1/5 the first quarter, then blew the turn and ran off with his exercise rider, Anna Hollander.
In an attempt to help him relax, Frankel took Squirtle Squirt to the track in the morning darkness the last few days before the Breeders' Cup.
One thing Frankel didn't worry about was Squirtle Squirt's fitness.
"I thought his post (three) would hurt him, but I had given him four straight seven-furlong races to give him a little more stamina and get him to come off the pace a little," the trainer said. "I knew he wasn't a seven-furlong horse. He's three-for-three now going six furlongs."
One of the reasons Lanzman thought Frankel would be a good match for Squirtle Squirt is because he trained Marquetry. The son of Conquistador Cielo, who was a grade I winner on dirt and turf, is now a stallion standing in Kentucky.
Marquetry was one of those included in Frankel's Breeders' Cup drought; in fact Marquetry added three losses to the total. He ran in the 1991, '92, and '93 Classics, finishing seventh, 11th, and fourth. He was part of an entry with Bertrando in 1993 that was favored at 6-5. Bertrando, the higher regarded half of the entry, finished second to longshot Arcangues.
For racing fans, the memories of all other Frankel-trained horses are distant now that he has finally won one of the coveted races. For Frankel, that is not the case at all. Of Breeders' Cup XVIII, he said the day after, "It was a disaster, even though I won a race and finished third in another. I set high standards for myself, and I didn't enjoy the day at all, to be honest with you. I should be happy that I won a race, but I'm so disappointed with the other horses. The only one who didn't seem to have an excuse was You, and it turned out she had a fever of 102.3 this morning (Oct. 28). I knew those post positions would be a killer. So, now what am I, 1-for-42? I ran three favorites and none of them hit the board, so how can I feel good?"
For now, that feeling is left to David Lanzman, his son Blair, his partner Desirae Nielsen, and her three children, Legend, Destiny, and Cherish.
After all, they brought Bobby Frankel his first Breeders' Cup victory. Not to mention their own.
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