12/06/2001 12:00AM

Barn 70: So much useful beauty


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Bobby Frankel refuses to gloat. His dream season continues, and yet he stays cool. There are no emotional scenes. No praises to the heavens above. No high fives with his entourage. There is no entourage.

"You've got to keep it even," he said, sitting alone in his six-seat box at Hollywood Park. "You can't get too high or too low, because the lows are going to come. Yeah, it's been a great year. But imagine how bad I'll feel next year if I'm not winning any of these races."

Really, he's not a gloomy guy. But 40 years in the racing business has made Frankel a world-class realist. He knows that every time he wins, other people lose, and that it will happen to him, too, more often than not.

Only in 2001, it seems as if Frankel never has a bad day. Or if he does, a good day comes along so quickly that the bad day disappears into ancient history. Remember his bad day at the Breeders' Cup on Oct. 27 at Belmont Park? All he did that day was win a million-dollar horse race.

"These races" to which Frankel refers are the 17 Grade 1 events his horses have won this year. But it doesn't take a grading system to figure out that it always has required the best and brightest among horses, owners, trainers, and jockeys to win races like the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Pacific Classic, Alabama Stakes, Woodward Stakes, Frizette, Matriarch, and Whitney Handicap, like Frankel did.

His achievement is not without precedent. In 1987, horses trained by Wayne Lukas and his assistants won 22 events with a Grade 1 designation. Frankel has only three more Grade 1 opportunities before Dec. 31, so the Lukas mark will stand.

Numbers are sneaky, though. They usually require interpretation. In 1987 there were 118 Grade 1 races. The 2001 calendar contained 101. Frankel knows that his 17 Grade 1 victories this year have come from a total of about 370 starters. He was asked to guess how many horses Lukas started in 1987 to run up his 22.

"I don't know," Frankel replied. "Maybe eight- or nine-hundred?"

Try 1,735.

Frankel's emphasis on quality over quantity reached its zenith this year. A late-morning stroll through the high-ceilinged shedrows of Hollywood's Barn 70-North is like a field trip to the Louvre. Grooms are in quiet attendance, doing up legs and feet, polishing the gems in each of the 50 stalls. Horses are dozing, nibbling hay, counting their blessings.

In the office, foreman Ruben Loza was looking at the barn list.

"What do you think?" he asked. "Another Eclipse Award?"

The message was clear. Frankel's Eclipse Award for 2000 was a credit to his staff. A second straight only makes sense. The reasons were there on the barn list, alongside the names of the 10 Grade 1 stakes winners who will return in 2002. Loza was asked to match the horses to their grooms, beginning with Super Quercus, winner of last week's Hollywood Turf Cup.

"Demetrio Laguna."

How about Starine, winner of the Matriarch?

"Ramon Gomez."

Denon, winner of the Hollywood Derby.

"Alvaro Alvarez."

Senure, winner of the Hirsch Handicap at Santa Anita and the United Nations Handicap on the disqualification of With Anticipation.

"Marcos Morales."

Skimming, winner of his second straight Pacific Classic.

"Alvarez has him, too."

Timboroa, winner of the Turf Classic, and currently recovering from ankle surgery.

"That was Geraldo Bravo in the East," Loza said, "and Francisco Ramirez in the West."

Lido Palace won the Whitney and the Woodward back-to-back. His groom?

"Favio Quevado."

And who takes care of Frankel's pet, the Alabama and Kentucky Oaks winner Flute?

"Jose Rubalcava," Loza said. "He's got Squirtle Squirt and You."

Not a bad year for Rubalcava. You won the Frizette. Squirtle Squirt won the King's Bishop and the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

That left Happyanunoit, retired winner of the Gamely Handicap, and Aptitude, winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Hollywood Gold Cup, on the disqualification of Futural.

"Marco Quevado for the mare," Loza said. "No relation to Favio."

And Aptitude's groom? Loza smiled.

"Ruben Loza," he said.

But now what? Now that Aptitude has gone to stud. Loza did not look like a desperate man. He has worked for Frankel since 1977.

"I'll just wait for the next one to come along."