01/02/2004 12:00AM

Gold Ruckus wins Lafayette

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ALBANY, Calif. - Gold Ruckus ($7.20), the last horse to run under the ownership of John Franks, scored a one-length victory over Truly a Judge in the $81,000 Lafayette Handicap at Golden Gate Fields on Thursday.

"It's a fitting way for Mr. Franks to go out as a winner," winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said of the four-time Eclipse Award winner as leading owner who died Thursday. "From now on, his horses will run as the John Franks Estate."

The 6-year-old gelding, who was making his stakes debut, sat in fourth early as stablemate Cappuchino set the pace. He rallied four wide on the second turn and unleashed a strong closing kick to wear down Truly a Judge in the lane, winning the race in 1:34.53 on a sloppy track.

"I think the off track helped, but the race was won in the third quarter," said Hollendorfer, who also saddled third-place Bring Home Thegold and fourth-place Cappuchino. "They went the half in 46 and change (46.68) and then the three-quarters in 1:10 (1:10.08). Horses can't go on doing that."

Gold Ruckus ran the closing quarter in 23.65 seconds.

"I was totally happy where I was," winning jockey Kevin Radke said. "Down the backstretch, I knew I'd only be in front of two runners. I knew I had them when I turned for home. I had a ton of horse. He's fired like that every time."

Gold Ruckus has won four straight since returning to the races after suffering a fractured shoulder in February. He earned $47,250 to boost his lifetime earnings to $248,570 with 10 victories in 27 starts.