A Cup of Coffee--Monday, August 20, 2001

By Sean Clancy
From The Saratoga Special, reprinted with permission

Two days ago I was intimidated by Bobby Frankel. The New York accent maybe. The Hall of Fame plaque, partly. The constant look in his eye that says he's got something else to think about or somewhere else to go, perhaps.

I think there's a rap there somewhere. Or at least a preconception on my part. In a lifetime of horse racing, I had never officially met him.

I walked by his barn to see Flute and was glad he wasn't there. Allowed me to spy a little on my own. I needed to do a preview about the Saratoga Breeders' Cup, where he had the stone favorite Aptitude, and procrastinated until it was damn near post time for the race.

A friend offered to introduce me, I wavered again. Finally after Flute annihilated the Alabama and I was faced with using quotes that every journalist/writer/stone slab chiseler had, I went to meet Robert Frankel. And damn, am I glad I did.

I came home Saturday night and wrote my heart out about Flute and Frankel. I thought it was a pretty good piece of reporting and writing.

A day later, Frankel wins the Saratoga Breeders' Cup and the Pacific Classic and I'm back on the task again.

I follow Frankel back to the secretary's office and wait for a good moment.

I say, "Well, it looks like I'm going to get to know you pretty well by the end of this weekend."

He says, "You made one mistake in your article. You said Flute had never run against Fleet Renee. You know what I'm talking about? You said they never ran against each other. The Oaks. She beat her in the Oaks. Otherwise it was a good article."

He just said it, matter of fact as, "Do you want cream and sugar?" Then he walked away.

Damn, I was so mad. I pulled yesterday's Saratoga Special out. Yup, right there in black print, "Flute has never met Fleet Renee . . . " My first article about the guy and I come out with something as wrong as oil drilling in Alaska.

I tried to regain any semblance of confidence while Frankel answered his phone. Fire the fact checker I thought. No, no, hire a fact checker, I countered.

Frankel walked back into the main secretary's office and invited me to watch his last two runners of the day.

"Damn, I'm mad about making that mistake," I said, without really thinking about it.

"Don't worry about it. Ah, that's all right. It's not like it hurt my feelings. Everybody makes mistakes," Frankel said.

Here's a guy who was about to win his fourth race of the day, including three
stakes, telling me everybody makes mistakes. It was comical.

"That paper, it's a stepping stone," Frankel said from behind Lakow's desk with a dialed phone in his hand. "You can make mistakes and the whole world
doesn't know about 'em yet."

Contact Sean Clancy via e-mail at sean@thesaratogaspecial.com or telephone at 518-581-1947.