12/15/2006 1:00AM

Illinois horsemen elect Kirby as new president


STICKNEY, Ill. - Longtime trainer Frank Kirby has been elected president of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, replacing Joe Kasperski, who was voted out in an election conducted by mail this month.

Kirby said Friday that he would name Greg Szymski the new executive director of the ITHA to replace Justin Cassity, who took over two years ago for Bob Fritz. Szymski, however, said he had accepted the appointment on an interim basis, and didn't know if he would be among the candidates for the permanent position.

"We're going to advertise and take resumes for the job," said Szymski, who once served as mayor of the Chicago suburb of Westmont, Ill., and is a Thoroughbred owner and breeder.

Followers of the Chicago circuit will be familiar with Kirby, who sits atop the trainer standings at Hawthorne and operates one of the largest stables in Illinois. The question is why Kirby, who stays quite busy just training his horses and helping to run Hondo Ranch, his farm and training center, and will turn 70 in April, wants the added responsibility of heading up the horsemen's group.

"I've been in racing since I was 15, and racing's been very good to me," Kirby said this week at this Hawthorne barn. "I feel like it's a privilege to be elected by my peers, and I hope I can do something to move us into the future."

Kasperski came under fire from a faction of his constituency when the ITHA board decided to change the organization's election cycle from two to three years, this not long after the presidency became a paid position. The electoral changes came to pass as a money-saving measure and were suggested by the ITHA's auditor, according to Kasperski and board members who supported him. Some ITHA members also questioned accounting and expense-reporting practices under Kasperski's administration. The ITHA auditor, however, never found evidence of wrongdoing.

Among the trainer-representatives elected to the 13-member ITHA Board this month was Christine Janks, a former ITHA president.

Feliciano arrives from Ohio

Ricardo Feliciano, who was the second-leading rider at the Thistledown meet that concluded Nov. 27, has moved his tack to Chicago. Agent Kenny Danna, who had been representing Randy Meier, out of action the rest of the year with an injury suffered last Sunday, will book mounts for Feliciano.

Meanwhile, jockey Peter Artieda, who lost his apprentice weight allowance earlier this week, suffered no serious injuries when he was hurt at the starting gate on Thursday. Artieda was briefly knocked out and was off his mounts Friday, but was expected to return to action Saturday.

And finally, jockey Ramsey Zimmerman, who has moved into second in the Hawthorne standings, is expected to move his tack to Fair Grounds when he leaves Chicago, according to agent Jimmy Ernesto. Israel Ocampo, fourth in the standings, will ride at Oaklawn later in the winter, agent Jodie Sinclair said.

* Sunday's featured race? Sorry, there isn't one. Hawthorne already has announced a 7 percent across-the-board purse cut for the remainder of the meet, and do not expect the track to be carding rich races in the coming weeks. There are, however, three $26,000 maiden special weights on Sunday, two restricted to Illinois-breds, one for open company.