05/01/2002 12:00AM

Frankel attempts Oaks-Derby double


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - In the spring of his golden year of 2001, during which he saddled the winners of 18 Grade 1 stakes and won almost $15 million in purses, Bobby Frankel brought a lovely filly named Flute to Churchill Downs - and she scored a smashing victory in the $500,000 Kentucky Oaks under Jerry Bailey, who also enjoyed a spectacular season.

Frankel and Bailey return to the storied Downs Friday to bid for a second consecutive Oaks, a feat accomplished by such icons of the sport as Wayne Lukas, Laz Barrera, Woody Stephens and Ben Jones. This is no ordinary statistic, just as the Oaks is no ordinary stakes. It is in every sense a classic, just as is its counterpart, the Kentucky Derby, and the time has long since passed for discussion.

You is the filly that Frankel is counting on in the Oaks. A daughter of the Kris S. stallion You and I, she was a top 2-year-old filly last year, capturing the Grade1 Frizette at Belmont Park. She disappointed in the Breeders' Cup and was narrowly beaten in the Hollywood Starlet but came back after a holiday to win two stakes at the Santa Anita meeting, including the Santa Anita Oaks.

"She was winning her races," Frankel said the other day, "but she really didn't look that good. I brought her to Kentucky early and she responded as we hoped she would. She blossomed, and has been training very well over this track."

Frankel says You compares favorably with Flute.

"She may have a little more speed and experience," he said. "We're going in confident You will turn in a strong performance. Of course, this year's Oaks has a stronger field."

Frankel has an opportunity to set several records this weekend, including one set by Derby Dick Thompson in 1932 and twice tied by Ben Jones of Calumet Farm.

These two racing legends both won the Derby and Oaks on the same weekend, Jones most recently, in 1952, when he won the Oaks with Real Delight and the Derby with the high-strung Hill Gail.

Frankel attempts to win the Derby with with Medaglia d'Oro, a great-grandson of Northern Dancer through Sadler's Wells and El Prado. He started twice last year and has two starts this year, including a victory in the San Felipe and a near-miss in the Wood Memorial. A Hall of Fame trainer, Frankel dismisses charges that Medaglia d'Oro is light on seasoning.

"Experience is overrated," Frankel says. "Some horses can run 100 times and still not beat a horse who runs once, if he is the better horse. Medaglia d'Oro appears to have moved forward off the Wood Memorial. He needed a tough race and he got one. But we won't be sure of his progress until the Derby has been run."