02/19/2002 1:00AM

Personal best: All's right in Bobby Frankel's world


Trainer Bobby Frankel had a season in 2001 befitting his Hall of Fame status.

For the second consecutive year, and for the third time in his career, Frankel was honored with the Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding trainer.

In 2001, Frankel set a personal record of 18 Grade 1 stakes wins from a stable that earned $14,926,956. "Everything went right," Frankel said.

Along the way, there were days when racing seemed to belong to Frankel.

On Aug. 19, he won his sixth Pacific Classic at Del Mar with Skimming. That same afternoon, Aptitude won the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap.

Six days later, Squirtle Squirt won the King's Bishop Stakes at Saratoga and Timboroa, Northern Quest, and Super Quercus gave Frankel a 1-2-3 sweep of the Del Mar Handicap. For Frankel, who was at Saratoga that day, the bicoastal double was one of the highlights of the year, and proof that 2001 was a special year.

"The biggest thing was when I went back to the barn to watch the Del Mar Handicap," he said. "When I finished 1-2-3, that said it all."

The success continued in the fall. On Oct. 6 at Belmont Park, Frankel won the Jockey Club Gold Cup with Aptitude and Frizette Stakes with You. On Nov. 25 at Hollywood Park, he won the Hollywood Derby with Denon and Matriarch Stakes at Starine.

"The biggest surprise was You," Frankel said. "When we bought her, we never expected her to be that good."

In between those milestone days, Frankel reached another goal. On Oct. 27 at Belmont Park, Squirtle Squirt gave Frankel his first Breeders' Cup win, in the Sprint. The upset victory ended a 17-year losing streak for Frankel on racing's richest day.

The win Frankel cherished the most came on May 4 when Flute gave Frankel his second career victory in the Kentucky Oaks. She won impressively, even though she was nearly excluded from the field because of insufficient earnings.

"The Kentucky Oaks was probably the biggest win," Frankel said. "I didn't know if I was going to get in. My emotions were up and down. Plus, she was my favorite horse."

Frankel was a finalist for the 2001 Eclipse Award along with Bob Baffert, who led all trainer in earnings with $16,354,996, and Scott Lake, who led all trainers in winners with 406.

Frankel paid credit to longtime assistants Ruben Loza in New York and Humberto Ascanio in California. Ascanio has been with Frankel since 1973, Loza since 1977.