11/18/2009 12:00AM

Frankel recalled as tough yet tender


LOS ANGELES - Bobby Frankel, the Hall of Fame trainer who died early Monday morning from complications of lymphoma at age 68, was remembered for his gruff exterior and soft interior during a traditional Jewish memorial service and burial on Tuesday afternoon at Hillside Memorial Park, just a few miles northwest of Hollywood Park.

"His eyes would light up when he would talk about horses, dogs, baseball, and his baseball card collection," said Joe Torre, the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who was one of the people who offered eulogies to Frankel. "There was a lot to him. The last couple of months he was really hurting, but he never wanted to concern anyone with his issues. He was very private. There was a shyness to Bobby. He let certain people in."

Bethenny Frankel, the trainer's daughter and a television celebrity who appears on "Real Housewives of New York City," said her father taught her to "say what you mean and mean what you say."

"He often was perceived as rude when he was just being honest," she said.

A crowd of nearly 400 attended the service, including a Who's Who of racing personalities. In addition to local Hall of Famers such as trainers Neil Drysdale. Ron McAnally, and Bob Baffert, and jockeys Eddie Delahoussaye, Laffit Pincay Jr., and Gary Stevens, those flying in on short notice for the service included trainers Rick Dutrow, one of Frankel's closest friends, and Chad Brown, a former assistant.

Others who attended included owners Jerry and Ann Moss and Marty Wygod, racing executive Bill Thayer, famed veterinarian Dr. Jack Robbins, Garrett O'Rourke of Juddmonte Farms, and several of Frankel's longtime employees, including assistant trainers Humberto Ascanio and Sally Lundy, foreman Ruben Loza, and exercise rider Jose Cuevas.

Bethenny Frankel, who had a long, contentious relationship with her father, said they found peace in recent months as he battled his disease.

"The past couple of weeks, he was very connected to his religion," she said. "He and his brother would tell stories about growing up. He developed an inner peace. He had a colorful life, traveled all over the world."

Bethenny Frankel said that when her father's illness progressed in recent weeks, "He wanted simple peace. He didn't want to be a lab experiment."

In addition to Torre and Bethenny Frankel, O'Rourke delivered a eulogy. Others who later spoke included trainer Julio Canani, retired trainer Gary Jones, and jockey agent Scotty McClellan.

Canani, who worked for Frankel decades ago before fashioning his own successful career, said the man he nicknamed "Presidente" was "one of a kind."

Canani related a story of how when Los Alamitos had a Thoroughbred meeting more than 20 years ago, he was entrusted with running horses in Frankel's name there. One night, Frankel decided to accompany Canani. As they approached the pass gate, Canani went through first, without incident. Frankel was stopped.

"Who are you?" the security guard said.

"I'm Bobby Frankel," he replied.

"No you're not. That," the guard said, pointing at Canani, "is Bobby Frankel."

Frankel was known for growing extremely close to some of his horses. He got choked up when his favorites, like Sightseek, were retired, or when a horse of his suffered a devastating injury. One personal favorite was Exbourne, who suffered a catastrophic injury but was nursed to health by Frankel. Exbourne stood at stud before complications set in, necessitating his being euthanized.

"One time Bobby was visiting the graveyard we have at Juddmonte," O'Rourke said. "He looked at Exbourne's stone, and he completely broke down. He cried like a baby."

O'Rourke told a story of how Frankel, after winning a stakes race at Keeneland with Tates Creek, was seething minutes later as he watched on television as a horse of his racing in California was disqualified for interference. After Frankel made a scene in the director's room, O'Rourke cautioned Frankel about putting him in an uncomfortable position in front of his hometown acquaintances in Lexington, Ky.

"You know what, though," Frankel said, according to O'Rourke. "Those guys at Keeneland will think twice about taking us down now."