07/02/2001 11:00PM

Franks gives Wilson shot at big time


BOSSIER CITY, La. - When trainer Shane Wilson was walking hots as a 14-year-old for Jack Van Berg at Louisiana Downs, he never imagined he would someday train for the track's most powerful owner, John Franks.

Wilson, who went out on his own as a public trainer three years ago, hit a stroke of good fortune recently when Franks, a multiple Eclipse Award-winning owner, sent him 22 horses to run this meet at Louisiana Downs.

"It's an incredible opportunity," said Wilson, 30. "We've got the best opportunity we've ever had to win races, and we're really thankful to Mr. Franks. This is the way Frankie Brothers and Tom Amoss got started. Mr. Franks sent them a few horses, and the next thing you know, they're a powerhouse."

With the infusion of Franks horses, Wilson's stable has grown from 18 horses to 40. He said he fell into the opportunity to train for Franks after the owner bought into some horses with owner-trainer Firal Ryder last year at an auction at Louisiana Downs. "Mr. Ryder had so much going on and asked if me and my wife would take two or three horses for him to the Fair Grounds," said Wilson. "He said he was going to put some horses in the sale here, and the ones that didn't sell we could take to New Orleans."

Ryder ended up buying back three colts, and after the sale he was approached by Franks, who wanted to buy the colts. Ryder agreed to sell a portion of each of the colts to Franks provided they remain in training with Wilson, as he had made a promise to the young trainer. The Franks-Wilson relationship grew from there, and when Wilson settled in for the meet at Louisiana Downs this season, he started to receive more horses for Franks.

"They said they were going to send me a couple of horses," said Wilson. "The first load was four, then a week later it was four more. Then it's been one after another. We went from having 18 horses to 40 in a month. With what Mr. Franks has sent in, we've got something for pretty much any condition they can write this meet. We've never had a stable like that before - with so much balance."

Wilson won the eighth race on opening day for Franks with Uniquely Lucky, then came back one race later and sent out Toolighttoquittoo, who finished a troubled second in the $40,000 Arcadia to Prince Slew.

Wilson will start three horses for Franks on Thursday, and feels his best chance for victory lies with Faxmeback in the fourth race. The colt will be coupled with Spend a Web for the maiden claiming race, which will be run over 1 1/16 miles on turf. Faxmeback makes his third start off a layoff Thursday.

"This will be his first start since being gelded," said Wilson. "I think he's got a lot of promise, he's just real high strung. He can be his own worst enemy at times when he gets excited in the paddock or the post parade. He leaves some of his race there, so hopefully, the gelding will settle him down."

Wilson grew up about a mile from Louisiana Downs. "I could stand in the driveway and listen to the races being called when I was a kid," he said.

After spending a few years away at college, he returned to the area and went to work for trainer Sam David Jr.

"I decided this was what I wanted to do," said Wilson.

Wilson's first career win came in October 1998 with Fullasatick when she captured a minor stakes at Sam Houston Race Park in Houston.

* Taffy, who in her last start finished seventh as the favorite in a turf allowance at Lone Star Park, will attempt to recapture her best form in the featured ninth race Thursday, a one-mile optional claimer on turf worth $23,000.