11/17/2003 12:00AM

Frankel takes aim at record


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Bobby Frankel is knocking off milestones this year as swiftly as the horses he trains run past the opposition. Frankel has won a record 23 Grade 1 races. His horses have earned a record $18 million. Yet the latest mark on which Frankel is closing in has taken more than 30 years to approach.

Frankel needs one victory to tie trainer Charlie Whittingham's record 859 wins at Hollywood Park. Frankel enters the Wednesday card with 858 Hollywood wins, and two chances to rewrite the record book. In race 6, he starts Kiss and Fly in a two-other-than filly-mare allowance race at 1 1/16 miles on turf. In race 7, he starts Blue Boat and Labamta Babe in a three-other-than allowance at a 1 1/16 miles on the main track.

Frankel, who has been training in California since 1972, won five races opening week at Hollywood Park and said his goal is to "win one more Grade 1 and hit $20 million." None of the horses Frankel starts Wednesday has Grade 1 races in their immediate future, though Blue Boat certainly has the potential.

Blue Boat was cut out to be good one for Juddmonte Farms. A 4-year-old by Gulch, he is a half-brother to Mizzen Mast, who developed into one of the most exciting runners in California in 2001. After losing his first two starts in the U.S., Mizzen Mast changed running styles, harnessed his speed, and scored electrifying wins in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes and Grade 2 Strub Stakes.

Blue Boat faces a dilemma similar to Mizzen Mast's. He has been too fast for his own good. He lost his first four starts, in France, and was sent to Frankel as a maiden. Racing this spring in New York, he won three straight starts by setting the pace, then tailed off. On Wednesday, Blue Boat makes his first start on the West Coast, with Patrick Valenzuela aboard. Frankel could opt for a change in strategy, because the race includes a fast-working comebacker who is almost certain to have the early lead.

That speedster is Heavenly Search, who set the pace in all four of his starts and is likely to do the same Wednesday. Trained by Bob Baffert, this son of Seeking the Gold has a series of fast works for his first start since June 2002.

Meanwhile, Labamta Babe upset Siphonic in the 2001 Santa Catalina. His race Wednesday is his second start since being gelded. The other starters include Legendary Weave, Fly to the Wire, and Vicious Boy.