Belmont Park Race Report: Say No More

Published in the Oct. 6 issue of The Blood-Horse
Everyone knew what was coming. Frankel the Fox was honed in on another kill, and no one could stop it. It didn't take a genius to look at the past performances of the Sept. 29 Turf Classic Invitational Stakes (gr. IT) and realize the scratches of Slew Valley and Honor Glide meant trainer Bobby Frankel was in control of the pace with Timboroa.

Here was a $750,000 pot and yet another grade I stakes victory staring Frankel in the face. After actually losing a major race the week before with Squirtle Squirt in the Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I), it looked like a perfect opportunity for the Frankel East-West juggernaut to begin rolling again.

The sight of Frankel standing in the winner's circle with that familiar Cheshire cat grin on his face has become one of racing's familiar sights, especially this year. Prior to the Turf Classic, he had sent out 24 individual stakes winners, who had won a total of 32 stakes at 12 different tracks. He was coming off an amazing Saratoga meet, in which he won six stakes with six different horses (including three grade Is), and a Del Mar meet in which he won six stakes with five different horses. All told, in 2001, he has captured 16 grade I and grade II stakes.

To demonstrate what a charmed year Frankel has been having, on July 1, within the span of an hour, he was placed first by disqualification in the grade I United Nations Handicap and the grade I Hollywood Gold Cup. He really hit another zone on the weekend of Aug. 18-19, when he captured the Alabama Stakes (gr. I) with Flute, the Pacific Classic (gr. I) with Skimming, and the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) with Aptitude. A week later, he won the King's Bishop (gr. I) with Squirtle Squirt and finished 1-2-3 in the Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT) with Timboroa, Northern Quest, and Super Quercus. Victories in the grade II Diana Handicap with Starine on Sept. 3 and grade I Woodward Stakes with Lido Palace on Sept. 8 kept his weekend streak of major stakes victories alive. Then the unthinkable happened: Squirtle Squirt was nailed in the final strides of the Vosburgh.

But Frankel was ready to make amends in a big way, as he boarded a red eye flight from Los Angeles on the evening of Sept. 28. He had Starine in the Flower Bowl Handicap (gr. IT), The Seven Seas in the Yellow Ribbon Stakes (gr. IT), Senure in the Clement L. Hirsch Handicap (gr. IT), and Timboroa in the Turf Classic. Frankel popped a sleeping pill, and for the entire flight, had sweet dreams of another big weekend.

As he sat in his Belmont office at nine o'clock the following morning, he still was mildly upset about getting nipped in an optional claimer at Santa Anita the day before with Speak in Passing, who had blazed through fractions of 1:07.83 and 1:19.81 on the turf before losing in the last jump, the mile run in 1:32.55. Defeats are not the norm these days for Frankel, and now he had two of them stuck in his craw.

But Frankel was feeling much better about things when he heard the news that Slew Valley and Honor Glide--two horses with good tactical speed--had been scratched from the Turf Classic. There now were only six horses in the race, and the only others who had been effective on or near the pace were Europeans Mutafaweq and With the Flow. It was obvious that if Timboroa's jockey Edgar Prado wanted the lead, it was his for the asking.

Frankel told Prado to go to the front without taking too much out of Timboroa, who had never won on the lead before, but had scored two stakes victories in America by tracking the pace. The 3-5 favorite, King Cugat, was a confirmed closer, as was the rejuvenated 7-year-old Cetewayo, and the upstart 3-year-old Blazing Fury.

Sometimes, things look so logical and obvious, they can't help but materialize just the way everyone figured. And that certainly was the case in the Turf Classic, as Timboroa went to the front from the outside post and was able to slow down the pace to a crawl, with fractions of :50.99, 1:16.54, and 1:41.39 for the mile, over a course labeled 'good.'

The others all bunched up behind him, and at one point it looked as if King Cugat, trying for his first grade I victory after four runner-up efforts, was going to make a race out of it. But each time Prado got after Timboroa, the English-bred son of Salse opened his lead. At the wire, he had three lengths on King Cugat, with Cetewayo finding his best stride late to finish a clear third. It was a big effort for Cetewayo, considering he had come down with a virus three weeks earlier and missed several days of training. With a final quarter in :24.15, Timboroa covered the 1 1/2 miles in 2:29.43 on the main turf course.

Timboroa is another of those steals picked out for Frankel by French bloodstock agent Michel Zerolo, who lives in Florida. Frankel liked the horse's form in Italy and bought him for Edmund Gann.

When the weekend had ended, Frankel had a third in the Flower Bowl with the fast-closing Starine, and another grade I victory the following day with Senure in the Clement Hirsch, giving him 11 for the year. The only horse who ran poorly was The Seven Seas, and that was because she entrapped her epiglottis in the Yellow Ribbon.

(Chart, Equibase)