LOS ANGELES (AP) - Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, who won the 2003 Belmont Stakes with Empire Maker, has died after a long bout with cancer. He was 68.
Jockey agent Ron Anderson said Frankel died early Monday at home in Pacific Palisades. Frankel had been running his stable by phone for most of the year while he was undergoing treatment.
Frankel began his training career by turning lowly claiming horses into stakes winners, and wound up with earnings of more than $200 million.
"He started at the bottom and worked his way to the top of our profession," said Anderson, who booked riders on horses trained by Frankel over the years. "He was a very kindhearted person that had people that worked for him for 20, 30 years, which is almost unheard of around the racetrack."
Frankel enjoyed his greatest success this decade, winning four consecutive Eclipse Awards as the nation's leading trainer from 2000-2003, and five overall. He oversaw a nationwide string of horses, with Khalid Abdullah-owned Juddmonte Farms as one of his major clients.
"It came easy to him. He was a very gifted horseman," Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said from Santa Anita. "He left a huge stamp on racing. He'll always be remembered."
Besides Empire Maker, other winning horses Frankel trained for Juddmonte included Aptitude, Intercontinental, First Defence, Sightseek and Ventura.
"He was brilliant," Juddmonte farm manager Garrett O'Rourke said from Lexington, Ky. "It's the end of an era, isn't it?"
Frankel won his only Triple Crown race with Empire Maker in the Belmont, dashing the Triple Crown bid of Funny Cide, who had won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
Empire Maker, who had been bothered by a foot injury, won by three-quarters of a length after finishing second to Funny Cide in the Derby.
"This is probably the biggest thrill in racing for me," Frankel said at the time. "A little redemption here."
Frankel had twice before finished second in the Belmont, including 2002 when Medaglia d'Oro was beaten by a half-length by 70-1 shot Sarava. In 2000, he failed when Aptitude was second in the Derby and the Belmont.
Frankel trained six Breeders' Cup winners, including 2004 Classic winner Ghostzapper, and ranked second to D. Wayne Lukas in career Breeders' Cup earnings.
His last Breeders' Cup win came with Ventura in the 2008 Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita, with Frankel on hand to watch. Ventura finished second in this year's race at the same track, with Frankel listed as the trainer although he was forced to watch on television.
Frankel was a mentor to trainer Rick Dutrow Jr., who saddled Big Brown to victories in last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness. The horse lost his Triple Crown bid in the Belmont, when he finished last.
"I used to love it when I would do something good, I would call Bobby first and say, `Bobby did you see that?"' Dutrow said Monday from New York. "When I didn't know what to do, he would be the first guy to call."
Dutrow said he introduced Frankel to Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre, with whom Frankel became close friends and partners in owning some horses.
"Bobby was the best horsemen I ever met," Dutrow said. "You can't be made that way, it has to just happen. He just was natural. He knew what to do. It helps so much when you love your horses, good things come to you."
Frankel was a well-known dog lover, who often brought his pets to the barn with him. He named his current Australian sheep dogs Ginger and Punch, after Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic winner Ginger Punch, who he trained. They replaced his previous dog, Happy, after she died.
Anderson said Frankel had left the hospital where he was being treated because "he wanted to go home and see the dogs one more time."
Frankel was notoriously private, and kept the details of his illness from most of his colleagues in racing.
"He was a secretive guy," Baffert said. "He's from the old school of training, nobody needs to know your business. Once you got him by himself, he was a lot of fun to be around."
The Brooklyn-born Frankel split his time between New York and California, where he first moved in 1972. He won a record 60 races at Hollywood Park in Inglewood on the way to his first of 30 training titles in Southern California.
He was the career leader in victories among trainers at Hollywood Park with 952 and at Santa Anita with 270.
He began his career cooling out horses after their workouts at Belmont Park and Aqueduct, and took out his trainer's license in 1966. He won his first race with Double Dash at Aqueduct that November.
Frankel, who was twice divorced, is survived by his grown daughter Bethenny, who has appeared on the Bravo reality series "Real Housewives of New York City."
AP Sports Writer Richard Rosenblatt in New York contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)