It’s been standing room only in Humberto Ascanio’s room at Arcadia Methodist Hospital since
the 64-year-old trainer suffered a stroke last Tuesday.
That’s a tribute to the popularity of the long-time assistant to
the late Bobby Frankel. Visitors are coming in droves. Take it from
Jimmy Allard, a Runyonesque race tracker who describes himself as “a
professional horse player” and who carries a nickname right out of Guys
and Dolls: “The Hat.”
“He’s in good spirits and he’s one of the sweetest, nicest guys
that ever walked on to a race track,” said Allard, who visited Ascanio
at the hospital’s rehab facility Friday evening. “When I walked in to
visit him, the nurse said, ‘My God, this guy’s popular. I can’t believe
how many visitors he has.’ And when I walked in his room it was full of
people. I had to joke with him. I said, ‘Geez, Umberto, after 37 years
with Bobby Frankel, you dealt with him and all that pressure, and now
he’s gone for two years and now this?
“If you can deal with him for 37 years, you can deal with this.
It won’t be a big deal. I got a little bit of a chuckle out of him, so I
was glad I went over and saw him. I love the man, I respect him and
he’s one of the great horsemen in our country. He has incredible
compassion for the horses.”
Allard has battled medical issues himself, overcoming facial and
scalp cancers, which is the main reason he wears a hat. The Rochester,
N.Y., native came to California on Sept. 1, 1974 when he
was 20 years old.
“My first full time year at the race track was 1986, so this is
my 27th year,” said Allard who touted Sham Stakes winner Out of Bounds
as “the best-looking horse I’ve ever seen” when he caught a glimpse of
him before his maiden win at Hollywood Park on Dec. 10.
“Obviously it’s going to be a long road in terms of any kind of
full recovery, but his mental faculties are fine,” Allard said of
Ascanio. “I spoke with him; he’s alert, sharp, can speak, but there’s
definitely some paralysis and unfortunately he’s going to have a long
road ahead of him in terms of rehabilitation.
“I just pray to God that he can come back good enough so that he
can be out around the horses, which has been his entire life. That’s
probably the best rehab he can get. Everybody’s praying for him, so
he’ll be all right. He’ll come back.”