Humberto Ascanio, 62-year-old assistant to the late Bobby Frankel for 35 years, doesn’t know what he will be doing this time next year, but he’s not about to sit around and fret about it.
“I’m just going to go to work until the end of this year and I think Juddmonte (Farms) is going to make a decision and Dottie (Ingordo-Shirreffs) is going to make a decision about his horses,” Ascanio said Thursday, only three days after Frankel died at 68 from complications of lymphoma. “Whatever happens, whatever decision they make, it’s going to happen.”
Ascanio, who said several trainees that Frankel owned will be sold, currently is overseeing about 32 horses at Hollywood Park. He’s preparing three horses to run in Hollywood Park’s Turf Festival over Thanksgiving weekend, including 2008 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint winner Ventura in the $300,000 Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes on Nov. 28.
“I hope she wins for him (Frankel),” said Ascanio, who also will saddle Proudinsky and Fluke in the $300,000 Grade 1 Citation Handicap on Nov. 27.
Frankel won a record 17 Turf Festival races — 11 more than his closest pursuer — and saddled the winner of the Matriarch a record eight times.
It didn’t take long for Ascanio, who went to work as a groom for Frankel in 1973, to climb his way up the ladder in the Hall of Famer’s barn. He was promoted to assistant about a year later, but not before some serious thought.
“In a way, I was hesitant,” Ascanio said. “I knew he was a real tough guy, real strict. He wanted everything to be right, organized, everything. He said to think about it, that he needed someone to run his (stable). I talked it over with my wife and she said, ‘Do what you want, whatever makes you happy.’ ”
Ascanio said he believes he earned Frankel’s respect through the dedication to his work.
“I was a good worker, I worked hard with his horses and I think he saw this,” Ascanio said.
“He always liked his horses to look good, because if they don’t look good they don’t run (well).”
There was no better teacher in the profession than Frankel, and it seems Juddmonte could do a lot worse than to keep its horses with Ascanio and see what the native of Guadalajara, Mexico can do with them.
It says here Ascanio learned his lessons well and is ready for the challenge of heading his own stable.