STABLE NOTES BY ED GOLDEN

• FRANKEL ADMIRER SMITH OPTIMISTIC ABOUT VIVO PER LEI

• HOW TO GET A NEW GARDENER, BOBBY FRANKEL STYLE

SMITH EXPECTS BETTER TRIP FOR VIVO PER LEI IN FRANKEL STAKES

Everybody’s got a Bobby Frankel story. Everybody who knew him, anyway.

Mike Smith is no exception. The 47-year-old Hall of Fame rider rode one of the last stakes winners saddled by Frankel before he died at the age of 68 on Nov. 16, 2009, when he piloted champion filly Stardom Bound to victory in the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks on March 7 of that year.

On Sunday, Smith rides 6-1 morning line chance Vivo Per Lei for trainer John Shirreffs in the third running of the Robert J. Frankel Stakes, formerly run as the San Gorgonio Handicap, a race Frankel won eight times, starting with Extra Hand in 1973.

As for Vivo Per Lei, Smith rode the 5-year-old mare by Empire Maker (who won the 2003 Belmont Stakes for Frankel) once, finishing an eventful third in the Grade II Goldikova Nov. 4 at Santa Anita.

“I was having a great trip, down in the pocket, and all I needed was a place to run when it came time, but I never really got it until it was too late,” Smith recalled. “I was looking for it off the turn but didn’t get it until about the 16th pole. She should improve, so we’ll see how much.

“The Goldikova wasn’t a bad race by any means. She has a real quick turn of foot but I didn’t get her clear enough early enough.

Regarding Frankel, Smith said, “I didn’t get to ride for Bobby a whole lot, although I really admired him. I won one of the last Grade I races he won on Stardom Bound and I have the picture of her and Bobby in the winner’s circle hanging in my house.”

The field for the Frankel: Camelia Rose, Mario Gutierrez, 10-1; Halo Dolly, Joe Talamo, 5-2; Qaraaba, Julien Leparoux, 3-1; Hard to Resist, Corey Nakatani, 12-1; Imperialistic Diva, David Flores, 20-1; I Dazzle, Jose Valdivia Jr., 20-1; Vivo Per Lei, Mike Smith, 6-1; More Chocolate, Garrett Gomez, 8-1; and Tiz Flirtatious, Rafael Bejarano, 2-1.

GRASS WAS GREENER FOR FRANKEL AFTER DOGGING IT

Frankel wasn’t just an expert on horse racing. He was proficient in other fields, or so he thought. Like most race trackers, one thing he never lacked was an opinion.

Agent Scott McClellan, who represents rising star Joe Talamo, recounted this tale.

“We were drawing the races at Hollywood Park and Bobby asked me to go back to his place in Pacific Palisades afterwards to get something to eat and play Miss Pacman, ‘and then we’ll come back to the races.’

“The draw was done early and we jumped in his car and went to some burrito place. Then we come to this driveway at his house. He gets out and says, ‘This bleeping gardener; I’m bleeping tired of the guy. Look at the grass. It’s all brown. They come in here and leave in five minutes and look at the grass. I’m getting a new gardener.’

“Then he says, ‘Scotty, I’m going to teach you something. You know how I’m going to get a new gardener?’ I said, ‘No.’ He says, ‘I’m going to get Tasha the dog, I’m going to put her on a leash and I’m going to walk through Pacific Palisades, all over, up and down, and as soon as I see the best-looking yard in the city, I’m going to ring the door bell, and I’m gonna say, Who the bleep is your gardener? That’s smart. That’s how I’m going to get a new gardener.’”

Frankel never was one to dog it, especially when it came to green grass. Both he and his horses loved it.

MEMORIAL FUND SET UP FOR LATE LONG-TIME RACING EMPLOYEE JOE MONTE

Long-time Southern California racing employee Joe Monte, who worked in a multitude of jobs at Santa Anita, Del Mar, Betfair Hollywood Park and Fairplex Park, died Dec. 19 at the age of 60 due to complications from heart surgery.

Joe had many friends in racing, from people on the backstretch to those at the administrative level, and always had a friendly greeting for all.

“I remember Joe, every single year working outside the paddock at the L.A. County Fair,” said Santa Anita Publicity Director Mike Willman. “You couldn’t have asked for a friendlier, more helpful employee than Joe. He loved the racetrack and he was really good with the fans.

“He was a people person and he’ll be missed.”

A memorial fund is being established for Monte to cover funeral and burial expenses. To participate, please make checks payable to Joe’s brother, Jeffery Monte, 413 N. Phillips, West Covina, CA 91791, or contact James Val at 626 340-5733.

FINISH LINES: In a bid to beat imminent steady rain during a spate of recent erratic storms, nearly 270 workouts were recorded at Santa Anita Saturday morning, 248 on the main track and 21 on the dirt training track. Among the workers was Ismene for trainer Bill Spawr, who went six furlongs in 1:14.20. The filly owned by Stephen Ferraro won the Anoakia Stakes at Santa Anita in 2011 and a year ago captured the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes before undergoing surgery to remove a bone chip in a knee . . . All three races scheduled for turf Saturday were taken off the grass, including the two stakes, the Eddie Logan and the Daytona . . . Santa Anita will offer $2 beers, hot dogs and sodas on Monday, Jan. 31, New Year’s Eve, and a free Santa Anita Commuter Mug to all THOROUGHBRED members at Santa Anita, while supplies last, on Tuesday, New Year’s Day. Santa Anita will be dark next Wednesday and Thursday and resume racing on Friday, Jan. 4 at 12:30 p.m.

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