Industry loses one of its giants

Robert Frankel, one of the three best trainers of my lifetime, died early this morning at his home in Pacific Palisades from complications of lymphoma. Frankel, a five-time Eclipse Award winner as top trainer in the nation, was 68.

A Brooklyn native whose tough exterior belied his sensitive side, Frankel had been absent from the race track for more than six months while battling a disease that he’d beaten in the late 1990s but that had resurfaced in the past year.

About the only race Frankel never won was the Kentucky Derby, but he won six Breeders’ Cup races, including the Classic in 2004 with Horse of the Year Ghostzapper. He also won the Pacific Classic at Del Mar a record six times and is one of only six trainers to saddle the winner of the Santa Anita Handicap in consecutive years.

Inducted into horse racing’s Hall of Fame in 1995, Frankel is second all-time on the money list behind D. Wayne Lukas. His horses won 3,654 races from 17,657 starters for earnings of $227,947,775.

But Frankel was about way more than just numbers. Though he could bite your head off one minute, he also had an extremely soft side that few outside the sport ever saw. He was deeply saddened in 2007 when his dog, Happy, died after a lengthy illness.

The Breeders’ Cup honors its top jockey each year with the Bill Shoemaker Award, and here’s a call for officials to begin recognizing the top trainer each year with the Robert Frankel Award.

9 thoughts on “Industry loses one of its giants

  1. I was so shocked to hear this. I didnt know many details about his illness, but I guess I thought he’d beat it.

    So sad, I wish he’d won the Derby.

  2. Chrystal — I remember Bob Baffert saying once that Bobby Frankel would cry like a baby when he won the Derby. I think everyone expected him to win one eventually, but it wasn’t to be. Just goes to show how tough it is to win the Run for the Roses when it eluded a guy like Bobby. I really thought Empire Maker was going to do the trick, but then along comes an unexpected like Funny Cide.

  3. I first became aware of Bobby Frankel when I saw Empire Maker racing and really liked that horse. After that I followed alot of his races. My deepest sympathy goes out not only to his family but also his horse racing family and friends he was truly one of a kind and will be missed in the sport.

  4. What a class act. Great horseman, and great person.

    Say hello to the thoroughbred greats Bobby, you will be among them for eternity.

  5. Bobby was the salt of the earth, who never forgot his roots and beginnigs even after reaching the pinnacle of his beloved profession. I met him a couple of times briefly, but that was enough to know what a special person he was. Such a good heart! rest in peace.,

  6. Brian Wilson has 29 saves, which is soecnd best to the Braves Craig Kimbrel. But Wilson’s ERA (2.96), WHIP (1.445) and blown saves (four) are up from the Championship season.

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