12/23/2004 1:00AM

Joey Franco embarks on second career

Joey Franco, the 2003 California-bred horse of the year, will stand in California at Harris Farms in 2005.

The story of Joey Franco is one of perseverance through difficulties and success at the highest level. The perseverance comes mostly from Joey Franco's owner-breeder, Jerry Frankel, whose reward came with the victory of Joey Franco in the Grade 1 Triple Bend Invitational Handicap.

That success came last year, however, and Joey Franco did not race this year after an injury late in 2003 proved more troublesome than Frankel had hoped.

Joey Franco tore a suspensory, Frankel said, in his fourth-place finish in the Goodwood at Santa Anita in October 2003. He had won 4 of his 5 starts before the Goodwood, including the Triple Bend and the Grade 2 Del Mar Breeders' Cup.

"We tried everything to bring him back, stem cell research and everything else," Frankel said of Joey Franco, a son of the Seattle Slew stallion Avenue of Flags. "But Darrell Vienna, who's such a good, careful trainer, thought it was too risky to start him again."

As a result, Frankel retired Joey Franco to stud, and he will stand in California at Harris Farms for a stud fee of $3,000 live foal.

"I wanted to stand him at stud where he could get a good number of mares, and Harris Farms has 200 mares or more there," said Frankel. "So he's going to get some serious exposure, and he's a great-looking horse."

John Harris, owner of Harris Farms, said: "California has a good program of stallion awards. And we try to get breeders interested in the horse who will commit to breed some good mares to him."

The best-known stallion at Harris Farms is Cee's Tizzy, sire of two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow, whose first foals will be racing next year. In addition to older, proven sires like Moscow Ballet and High Brite, Joey Franco will join younger horses like Avanzado, a Grade 1 winner by the Forty Niner stallion Luhuk.

Dave McGlothlin, general manager of Harris Farms, noted that "shares in Joey Franco are available for $12,000, and they entitle the shareholder to two breedings per share the first two years, then the syndicate will vote on how they prefer to structure a bonus pool from that point forward. Jerry Frankel is involved with the syndication and will retain several shares in the horse."

It is fitting that Frankel will remain involved in Joey Franco, since he bred the horse. "I bought his dam, Susan Powter, at the 1991 Del Mar yearling sale," he said. Frankel paid $50,000 for Susan Powter, a daughter of Native Prospector and the Dance Spell mare Spell Victory.

Frankel's plans to race Susan Powter were delayed when she was involved in an accident before her scheduled debut. Susan Powter was stabled at the racetrack, and she became scared when July 4 fireworks began to go off. "It upset her so much she busted through the webbing in her stall, ran off, fell down, and needed 121 stitches," Frankel said. "It was just awful. Just before this happened, she was maybe two days from her debut, and I was so excited because she had worked three furlongs in 33 4/5. She had some real ability but never got to show it."

After getting Susan Powter patched up and back in condition to start, Frankel persevered to race her four times with no success, then retired her as a broodmare, and things began to look better immediately.

"The first foal I had out of her was Miss Lawless, and, unfortunately, the first couple of years Susan Powter went to a stallion who didn't really do that much," he said.

Present Value, a son of Halo, was a high-class racehorse and a useful sire in California. He was the sire of Susan Powter's first two foals. One of his best offspring, Miss Lawless, won $208,694 in three seasons of racing and won the Bay Meadows Matron in 1998.

Susan Powter's second foal was Mr. Insanity, whom Frankel said was claimed away from him.

After a couple of more unlucky racers, Joey Franco came along, and, Frankel said, "He was a great-looking young horse. He showed he could run right from the start."

Third in the California Breeders' Champion Stakes in his debut, Joey Franco won the El Cajon at 3, then blossomed last year into one of the country's best sprinter-milers, with four stakes victories (Triple Bend, Del Mar Breeders' Cup, Ack Ack, and Tiznow), as well as a second in the Potrero Grande.

Joey Franco retired to stud with 8 victories in 17 starts and $635,091 in earnings. He is the leading son of his sire, Avenue of Flags, who was sold out of state last year by Golden Eagle Farm.

Frankel continues to mate stallions from the Seattle Slew line with his mare. Susan Powter is now in foal to A.P. Indy.