08/30/2011 12:50PM

Del Mar: Eurton taking his time with Weemissfrankie

Benoit & Associates
Weemissfrankie wins her maiden on July 20 at Del Mar. Weemissfrankie will make her second start in Saturday’s Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante.

DEL MAR, Calif. – There was too much commotion on the July 20 opening day at Del Mar meeting to fully appreciate the maiden win by the 2-year-old first-time starter Weemissfrankie.

Lost amidst the record crowd of 46,588, more heavily involved in hat wearing, people watching, and drinking, was the start of a filly’s career that could take trainer Peter Eurton and a group of longtime partners to a level of racing they have yet to achieve.

Weemissfrankie is a leading contender for Saturday’s $250,000 Del Mar Debutante for 2-year-old fillies and can provide Eurton and owners Sharon Alesia, Mike Mellen’s Bran Jam Racing, Joe Ciaglia, Nick Cosato, and Rob Dyrdek with their first Grade 1 wins as owners.

“It would be such a high,” Eurton said. “I don’t know how I would feel.”

The ownership includes three groups that have been the foundation of Eurton’s stable for a decade – the Alesia family, Mellen, and Ciaglia. The partnership has stayed together since the death of Sharon’s husband, Frank, an actor and television director who died from a heart attack in February. Cosato is a former jockey’s agent in Southern California, and Dyrdek is a professional skateboarder and actor.

Weemissfrankie, a New York-bred by Sunriver, is named in honor of Frank Alesia and was purchased for $175,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ sale of 2-year-olds in training in April, nearly two months after Frank Alesia’s death.

“We didn’t know whether Mrs. Alesia would go with it,” Eurton said. “She hasn’t missed a race down here. Every day is great to have her in it.”

Eurton described Frank Alesia as “the managing partner of the owners” and a frequent visitor to Hollywood Park and Santa Anita from his Carlsbad, Calif., home, near Del Mar.

Alesia was retired as an actor and director and had a diverse list of credits. Alesia appeared in films such as “Beach Blanket Bingo” and “Bikini Beach” and on popular television shows such as “The Odd Couple,” “Bewitched,” and “Laverne & Shirley.” He wrote and directed episodes of “Laverne & Shirley” and directed the children’s program “Captain Kangaroo.” He was nominated for a daytime Emmy in 1979 for his work on that program.

“He’d see something and he’d make it funny,” Eurton said. “He loved it when people laughed at him and with him. He said, ‘Life is a big show.’ ”

With the Alesias, Mellen, and Ciaglia, Eurton, 54, has campaigned such stakes winners as Masterpiece, winner of the 2007 Brubaker Stakes at Del Mar; Star Nicholas, winner of the 2008 Windy Sands Handicap at Del Mar and On Trust Handicap at Hollywood Park; and Bran Jammas, who won the 2010 Solana Beach Stakes at Del Mar. The partners also race She’s Cheeky, who was third in the Grade 1 Santa Monica Stakes at Santa Anita and second in the Grade 3 Rancho Bernardo Handicap last month at Del Mar.

“We’ve never won a group race, had plenty of stakes wins,” Eurton said. “It would be a lot of fun, and these guys like to have fun.”

Mellen, the owner of a tire store chain in New England, and Frank Alesia became partners in 1997, adding Ciaglia, the constructor of skateboard parks, 10 years ago.

“Frank was a more experienced horseman at the time,” Mellen said of their start. “We grew together.”

Mellen, 72, called Weemissfrankie’s debut “exciting. She has a special significance with the name that she carries,” he said. “It was extremely emotional.”

Eurton’s stable has been abuzz about Weemissfrankie in the six weeks since the maiden race win. Through August, Weemissfrankie worked quickly on several occasions, including five furlongs in 59.20 seconds last Saturday.

The $150,000 Sorrento Stakes on Aug. 5, the leading prep to the seven-furlong Del Mar Debutante, was a race that Eurton quickly dismissed. That race did not fit into his plan for Weemissfrankie, in preparation for the Debutante – and beyond.

“Pete felt it was best not to race her too much,” Mellen said. “She’s one of the few 2-year-old we’ve ever run.”

Eurton said he is more confident when giving horses a break between races.

“My strength is usually [racing] four or five weeks apart, let a horse come down and come back up a bit,” he said. “If you don’t do that, with three weeks between races, you can’t let them down.”

In her debut, Weemissfrankie closed from eighth in a field of 10 to win a maiden special weight race over five furlongs by a half-length, making up five lengths in the final furlong.

“It surprised me for where she was in the race for her to win, but not that she won,” Eurton said. “She trained like she had some talent. She handles things easily.”

There are long-term hopes that Weemissfrankie will start in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs, although she must run well in the Del Mar Debutante to continue on that course, Eurton said.

“Can she beat the fillies in the Debutante?” he said. “I think she has the ability. They’re all young right now. I can’t wait to see how she develops as a 3- and 4-year-old.”