The New Year marks a new beginning for Humberto Ascanio. It will be the first time he has not shared nearly every working hour with a man who was his trusted mentor and loyal friend, Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, who died Nov. 16 at the age of 68.

The 63-year-old Ascanio was Frankel’s faithful confidante and assistant for 36 years, more than half his life. Together, they reached racing’s heights, establishing records few ever reach. Among Frankel’s many records are 917 career victories at Santa Anita.

Ascanio has moved on despite losing blueblood horses from Frankel’s long-time major client, Juddmonte Farms, who sent the majority of their horses to Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. Ever the class act, Ascanio had nothing but praise for Juddmonte.

“I still have about 10 horses,” Ascanio said from his Hollywood Park base. “I’m OK; I’m fine, I’m happy. Juddmonte has been real good to me. I can’t complain. In fact, next month they’re going to send me Midships, who I won three stakes with (including the San Juan Capistrano last April).

“Juddmonte has been wonderful over the years and they’ve really helped me. They’re real fine people. I couldn’t ask for any more. They helped me through the end of the year, and I understand their moving some horses elsewhere. But like I say, they’re sending me Midships, and hopefully, that will open the door for them to send me more.

“I know I won’t have the same kind of horses as before, but I’m confident everything will be all right. I have a couple of nice horses and still have some other owners who are supporting me.” Ascanio has also received positive reviews from the media, who recognized his understated contribution to Frankel’s success. “I’m real appreciative of that,” Ascanio said. “They’ve given me a great vote of confidence and I thank them very much.”

Ascanio had ample opportunity to express his gratitude to Frankel during the months as death approached, although they rarely expressed exuberance publicly. “The good thing was, Ventura won the Matriarch in her final race, and Bobby wanted her to do that,” Ascanio said. “He wanted to make sure she went out a winner.”

She did, and so did Frankel. Ascanio is likely to have the same legacy.


Team Zenyatta is enjoying every minute with the charismatic mare before she is scheduled to ship to Kentucky for breeding.

“It’s very emotional facing the realization that she won’t be with us anymore,” said Dottie Ingordo, wife of trainer John Shirreffs and racing manager for owners Jerry and Ann Moss. “We’ve had Zenyatta since she was a yearling, so the attachment is understandable and extremely strong. There’s no rush to send her to Kentucky. It’s cold and snowing there. Here she can hang with her buddies.”

Zenyatta was back at her Hollywood Park headquarters Sunday morning after being honored by Santa Anita and a crowd of 35,292 in a retirement ceremony following Saturday’s sixth race. The unbeaten 5-year-old daughter of Street Cry went out in a historic blaze of glory, becoming the first female to defeat males in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 7. It was her 14th straight victory.

“The ceremony was beautiful,” said Ingordo, cuddling her white 3-year-old toy poodle, Sophie. “We can’t thank Santa Anita and the crowd enough. Everybody was fabulous. Zenyatta loved it. She had a ball. She enjoyed every moment of it. She loves the crowd and she loves being a part of it.”

The feeling is mutual. Every day is Christmas for Zenyatta, who joins Seabiscuit,Silky Sullivan and John Henry as a Santa Anita legend. “Her fans have been so gracious,” Ingordo said.


Santa Anita’s largest opening day on-track crowd in 10 years--35,292—wagered $4,531,236 Saturday, an increase of 12 percent from last year, while the inter-track handle of $3,182,200 represented an increase of five percent.

Out-of-state handle of $7,200,517.30 was down about seven percent, but the grand total of $14,913,953.70 produced an increase of one percent.


The unveiling of a life-sized statue of John Henry drew a large crowd Saturday at the Kingsbury Fountain adjacent to the walking ring. “It was a very nice ceremony,” said Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally, conditioner of the two-time Horse of the Year who won 12 races at Santa Anita more than two decades ago.

“I enjoyed it,” McAnally continued. “It brought back some old memories. Of course, he won most of his races at Santa Anita, so it’s appropriate that they would have a statue of him here. The girl (sculptor Nina Kaiser) did a marvelous job.”


The California Retirement Management Account Foundation (CARMA) voted last month to give $264,000 to 12 different charitable organizations caring for retired California race horses. It represents an increase of approximately 50% from the amount granted in 2008, its first year of fundraising.

Last year, after only six months of operation, CARMA granted $150,450 to eight charities. The predominant source of funding is a .03% deduction from purses that goes directly to CARMA. Owners have the ability to opt out of the program, but nearly 80% participate.

“We are extremely proud of the work we have done over the past 12 months,” said CARMA Board Chair Madeline Auerbach. “These funds will help buy much needed hay, feed and medications, etc. Hopefully, this will give a financial cushion to each of the charities. Not only has the CARMA program proven to be successful in terms of dollars raised, we’re able to see a tangible difference at the farms and facilities where the horses live. As we go out and visit organizations throughout the year, our directors are seeing the money put to work.”

Organizations receiving funding include CANTER – CA, California Equine Retirement Foundation, Equine Encore Foundation, Glen Ellen Vocational Academy, Harmony & Hope Horse Haven, Heaven Can Wait, Inc., Neigh Savers Foundation, Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue, Square Peg Foundation, Thoroughbred Rehab Center, Tranquility Farm, and United Pegasus Foundation. For more information, visit CARMA’s website at

FINISH LINES: There is special racing tomorrow, Monday. The feature race is the fourth running of the $65,000 Eddie Logan Stakes, named for iconic “footman,” who died last February at the age of 98. Logan had operated a shoe shine stand outside the racing office since the track opened on Christmas Day, 1934. Macias is the 7-2 morning line favorite for the Logan, a one-mile turf event for 2-year-olds. First post time is 1 p.m. . . . Victor Espinoza expects his business to prosper after winning three races on opening day. “It’s important to get off to a good start,” he said, “especially with a big crowd on hand. It was time to step up and put on a good show.” . . . Felipe Valdez is among the new faces in Santa Anita’s jockey colony. The native of Mexico City has been riding since 1996 and has made an impact since arriving from Northern California. He won nine races at the recent Hollywood Park meet, including three last Thursday. “I’ve been riding in Southern California since April,” said Valdez, whose book is handled by Roger Olguin. “I rode down here a little when I had the ‘bug,’ then I went to Bay Meadows and Golden Gate. I also rode in Canada for 10 years. It’s nice to be back in warm weather. California is the place to be. I’m hoping my success at Hollywood will pay off here. I’m working very hard. Jeff Mullins, Julio Canani and Steve Knapp have given me some good opportunities.” . . . Like a Rock star, Chantal Sutherland had to work her way through autograph seekers on her way back to the jocks’ room after winning Saturday’s fourth race aboard The Town Lady by three lengths. “I felt like Michael Jackson,” said the popular rider, who won 18 races at Santa Anita last season, and scored with her first mount this meet.