02/19/2002 12:00AM

Squirtle Squirt got memorable win


Squirtle Squirt won't go down in history as the best horse Bobby Frankel ever trained. But he will always hold a special place in the trainer's heart.

It was Squirtle Squirt who gave Frankel his first Breeders' Cup victory, by winning the Sprint last October at Belmont Park and breaking an unfathomable 0 for 38 drought for Frankel in the series. Squirtle Squirt's victory in the Sprint and his triumph in the Grade 1 King's Bishop Stakes at Saratoga carried him to an Eclipse Award as North America's top sprinter in 2001.

"He'll be one I remember, that's for sure," said Frankel, who was also honored Monday night with his second straight Eclipse Award as outstanding trainer.

Squirtle Squirt, who had three wins and three seconds from six starts in 2001, was the choice among all three voting blocs. He handily beat out Xtra Heat, who was voted 3-year-old filly champion, and Delaware Township, a multiple Grade 1 winner.

Squirtle Squirt is owned by David Lanzman, owner of a real estate mortgage company in Southern California, who accepted the Eclipse from television announcer Chris Lincoln. Lanzman purchased the future champion for $25,000 at the 2000 Barretts March sale of 2-year-olds. Squirtle Squirt, a son of Marquetry out of Lost the Code, by Lost Code, was named for the favorite Pokemon character of Lanzman's son Blair.

Frankel took over the training of Squirtle Squirt in January 2001 after the horse ran his juvenile campaign for Joe Garcia Jr., winning five of eight starts, including four stakes. But chips were found in both of Squirtle Squirt's knees and he had surgery to clean them out.

At first, Frankel was not overly enthused with the colt because he was a difficult horse to train. But after Squirtle Squirt won a classified allowance race at Hollywood Park on May 2, Frankel began to map out his Breeders' Cup campaign.

Squirtle Squirt finished second to Early Flyer in the Grade 3 Laz Barrera and second to Ceeband in the Grade 2 Triple Band, a pair of seven-furlong stakes at Hollywood Park.

Frankel shipped Squirtle Squirt east for the summer, and he won the Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga by 3 1/4 lengths before finishing second to Left Bank in the Grade 1 Vosburgh.

A fast workout days before the Sprint, an inside post position on a track that was favoring outside paths, and the abundance of speed in the race had most handicappers doubting Squirtle Squirt's chances.

But with Eclipse-winning jockey Jerry Bailey calling the shots, Squirtle Squirt worked out a stalking trip, split fellow speed horses Caller One and Xtra Heat turning for home, and went on to win by a half-length at 9-1.

"I thought the one edge I had was coming off those seven-eighths races," Frankel said. "He had so much speed, but you didn't have to bounce him out of there, and we weren't going to bounce him out of there. We were just going to let him break and see what happened."