02/06/2011 1:04PM

Ascanio relieved to end long winless streak

Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Humberto Ascanio, pictured with Proudinsky, ended a 46-start losing streak with a victory in Saturday's Grade 3 Thunder Road Handicap at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. – There were tears in his eyes and a smile on his face.

Humberto Ascanio stood in the winner’s circle after Fluke’s win in Saturday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Thunder Road Handicap at Santa Anita, a trainer visibly relieved.

Fluke gave Ascanio his first winner in 46 starts, dating back to Proudinsky’s win in the Grade 2 San Gabriel Handicap at Santa Anita on Dec. 27, 2009. The stable was winless with 40 starters last year.

“I’m glad I got that monkey off my back,” Ascanio said.

Ascanio is best known as the chief California assistant to the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, who died in November 2009. Ascanio won the Grade 1 Citation Handicap with Fluke less than two weeks after Frankel’s death, but he refused to take credit, deferring to Frankel.

During 2010, Ascanio, 63, had 12 seconds, 7 third-place finishes, and many bouts with frustration.

“I kept trying and kept trying to do what I learned from the man,” he said, referring to Frankel. “It was pretty rough.”

Ascanio knew he had a winner in the last furlong of Saturday’s Thunder Road. His Proudinsky led by 1 1/2 lengths with a furlong remaining, with Fluke moving closer all the time. At the wire, Fluke finished three-quarters of a length in front of Proudinsky, the 3-1 favorite. Fluke ran a mile on turf in 1:33.77 under jockey Joe Talamo.

“I thought Proudinsky would hold him, but Fluke was faster,” Ascanio said. “It’s been a rough go, but it’s over, so we’ll look forward to more wins.”

The $1 all-Ascanio exacta paid $15.10. Fluke is bound for the $300,000 Frank Kilroe Mile on turf on March 5. Last year, he finished second in that race to the mare Proviso, losing by a nose. It is a loss that seemed a long time ago to Ascanio on Saturday afternoon.