12/03/2009 12:00AM

Q&A: Humberto Ascanio

Tom Keyser
Trainer Humberto Ascanio hugs jockey Joe Talamo after Talamo guided Fluke to victory in the Citation on Friday, Nov. 27, at Hollywood Park.

Former longtime assistant trainer to Bobby Frankel won his first two Grade 1 races on his own last weekend at Hollywood Park.

Birthdate: July 21, 1947, in Guadalajara, Mexico

Family: Wife Maureen, daughter Bridget, sons Mark, Matthew, and Michael; daughter Olga and son Humberto from a previous marriage.

How gratifying was last weekend?: "For me, it was great. But it was more for him. I know Bobby wanted to see Ventura go out a winner. Fluke, he called the shot with him. Fluke was racing in New York. When he came out here, Bobby said right away to point for the Citation. He was the master. He was sick, but he called the shots. He planned it."

How recently did you talk to him before he died?: "I was in touch the day before the last day. I knew he was getting worse and worse and worse. His voice was getting soft, soft, soft. But his mind was always here."

He obviously trusted you: "When he would go to New York in the summers, he would have 60 horses there, and I would have 45 or 50 here. The way I learned, I learned from him. I would just do it the same way."

How many horses do you have now?: "Twenty."

Goals?: "My intention is to train horses. Open my own stable. We'll see what happens."

Got into racing because ...: "I was living in Tijuana in 1968, working in a store. My brother-in-law was working for Farrell Jones. He told me to come to L.A. He said I'd make good money, $450 a month."

Had you been around horses?: "I just rode pleasure horses when I was little. That was it."

How did you end up working for Frankel?: "I worked as a hot walker and then a groom for Farrell Jones. He had these old-time grooms. I learned a lot from them. Then I went to work for Buster Millerick, and in March of 1973 I went to work for Bobby. A friend of mine from Guadalajara told me about the opening. Bobby paid every week, and a lot better than anyone I'd worked for, and he was winning more races. My family started living better. I got my assistant

trainer's license in 1976."

Why do you think you guys got along so well?: "First of all, I love horses. A lot of time, I'm tired when I get up, but I get to the track and I get my second air. I like to win, too, like him. When I was a groom, he always liked the way my horses looked. He promoted me to foreman in 1975. He was a tough guy. I was a little afraid of him. When he offered me the foreman's job, I wasn't sure if I should take it. My wife said, 'Do you want to be a groom all your life, or go to another level?' "

He had a reputation of paying very well: "Bobby always paid good. Dottie Ingordo helped a lot, too. She was doing his books in the 1980s. She told him you have to treat these guys like a team."

Funny memory with Frankel: "Not long after I got my job with Bobby, I came by the barn after he ran a horse in the last race one day. I was with my wife and Bridget, who was just a baby. The horse had lost. Bobby was screaming and cursing everybody. He started kicking buckets. He's yelling f-this, f-that. My wife says, 'Who is that guy?' I said, 'That's my boss.'"

Hobbies?: "I like hockey. My son Michael was a top player as a teenager. He was real good, and I'm not just saying that because he's my son. When Sandy Hawley was riding here, he'd go to the Kings games. He started taking me. I started liking it. I was hooked. I met Marcel Dionne, Rogie Vachon, a lot of the old players. I just go once in a while now."