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Robert J. Frankel

Bobby Frankel
Robert J. Frankel
Induction Year: 
July 9, 1941, New York City
Nov. 16, 2009, Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Career Years: 
Number of Starters: 
Number of Winners: 
Winning Percentage: 

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Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Bobby Frankel won five Eclipse Awards for Outstanding Trainer in an exceptional career that spanned five decades. Frankel first got into racing as a gambler, then found his way to the stable area, figuring a few hours walking hots in the morning was worth it to get a free pass to the afternoon’s races.


One day in New York in the early 1960s, Frankel took $40 to the track, got on a roll by hitting the daily double, and by day’s end made a successful $3,000 win bet on a 3-1 shot. He came home with $20,000.


“I put the money on my mother’s bed,” he recalled in 2003. “She thought I had robbed a bank.”


Enamored of the sport, Frankel began training in 1966, and won his first race that year. His first major win came in the 1970 Suburban Handicap with Barometer, whom he had claimed for $15,000. Two years later, Frankel relocated to California, and in his first season at Hollywood Park, in 1972, he set a single-season record at the spring meeting with 60 winners.


With the backing of Bert and Diana Firestone, Ed Gann, Jerry Moss, and Stavros Niarchos in the 1980s, Frankel gradually turned his barn in one filled with stakes runners. His success with European imports attracted the attention of owner Prince Khalid Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and his advisor, Dr. John Chandler, who boosted Frankel’s stock significantly by turning over the United States-based horses of Juddmonte Farms.


Frankel won 30 individual meet training titles, beginning in 1970 at Saratoga. He won 10 titles at Hollywood Park’s spring meet, six at Santa Anita’s Oak Tree meeting, five at Santa Anita’s main winter meeting, five more at Del Mar, and three at Hollywood’s fall meeting.


With the exceptions of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Frankel won just about every major event in racing. He won the Belmont Stakes with Empire Maker, twice won the Kentucky Oaks, and had six Breeders' Cup wins. At the time of his death in 2009, Frankel ranked second all time in earnings ($227,912,709) and 14th in victories (3,654).


Although he failed to produce any Breeders’ Cup victories with his first 38 starters, Frankel eventually trained six Breeders’ Cup winners, including 2004 Classic winner Ghostzapper. Frankel won his first Eclipse Award in 1993 and went on to win it again in 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003. He led all trainers in earning in 1993, 2002, and 2003.