Jul 27, 2010


This is a Del Mar story. Actually, it is a Bobby Frankel story that happens to take place at Del Mar.

In the summer of 1983 the first horse I ever bred was ready to race at Hollywood Park.
My trainer of choice was Bobby Frankel. I was a little daunted by his gruff demeanor but I was looking for a trainer who was a consistent winner with any kind of horse. I wasn't even sure he'd want to take on a British Columbia-bred maiden claimer named Bold Runaway .

I had only one request of Frankel: Let me know if we can win a bet.

"Maybe, maybe not," he told me when we met in the paddock at Hollywood Park. I took that as a "no" and made only a modest wager of support rather than conviction.
We ran second.
Three weeks later we were at Del Mar where terse instructions told me "bet your money".

My life at that time was embroiled in an unpleasant and costly divorce. My two children joined me for the trek from Santa Barbara. I was so sure that Bold Runaway would win that I plunked down a four-figure win bet. Not very clever, I realize, to drive a horse's odds down to 6-t0-5 on the nose. But I had blind faith in Frankel at that time and I needed a winner to boost my morale as well as that of Shannon and Josh.

Bold Runaway walked her beat under Martin Pedroza and,
after cashing my tickets, we went back to the barn to bid her adieu before the long ride home. To my dismay what I saw was my filly walking lame.

On the way out of the barn I bumped into Bobby. "Did you see your filly?
" he said, smiling.

"I think she's gone lame," I said. "Please have the vet look her over."

He muttered something to himself that sounded like "everybody's a trainer these days" and strode away.

The next morning, however, Bobby was on the phone with news that Bold Runaway had indeed suffered a slab fracture of her knee. The news was not unexpected so I paused, wondering what to do next, when Bobby asked what I planned to do with her.

"I'm not sure," I said. "Try to find her a good home."

"Would you take fifteen for her?" he said.

By that time I did not know if he meant fifteen hundred, fifteen thousand or fifteen cents. I knew enough about horse dealing to not make the first bid.

"I have a season to the top quarter horse stallion in America,"he explained. "I'll give you $15,000 for your filly and breed her."

Since I figured she was worth $1000, tops, I jumped at the offer while, at the same time, wondering which of us was loco. The sharpest guy in racing overpaying tenfold for a filly with no pedigree and a broken knee.

Bobby knew of my domestic disorder and seemed charmed by Shannon and Josh as only 5 and 10-year-olds can do. For years I wondered what his motive for that gesture represented. I didn't bring it up, perhaps in fear that he might want the money back.

Many years later I was in a group of horsemen, Frankel among them,
kibitzing at a Saratoga charity function. A couple glasses of wine loosened my tongue and I told the story for the first time outside my immediate family.

"Why, Bobby, why"? I asked.

He just smiled.