06/05/2003 11:00PM

Joey Franco's dam staying put in Ramona


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Two stakes wins by Joey Franco at Hollywood Park this spring has owner Jerry Frankel dreaming of capturing bigger prizes this summer.

"I'm hoping we can win the Triple Bend and the Pat O'Brien," he said. "That's not asking too much, is it?"

Not the way Joey Franco has performed lately. On April 26, he won his second career stakes in the $150,000 Tiznow Stakes for California-breds. On May 31, the 4-year-old Joey Franco won his first stakes against open company in the $91,325 Ack Ack Handicap over 7 1/2 furlongs.

Frankel and trainer Darrell Vienna were using the Ack Ack as a prep for the $300,000 Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Handicap over seven furlongs on July 5, the richest sprint of the Hollywood Park meeting. A win in that race could lead to a start in the Pat O'Brien Handicap over seven furlongs at Del Mar on Aug. 17.

"I think he's the best-looking horse I've ever owned," Frankel said.

A winner of 6 of 13 starts and $371,091, Joey Franco, 4, has been well regarded by Frankel since the start of his career. Trained until earlier this year by David Hofmans, Joey Franco began his career with a third in the open division of the California Breeders Champion Stakes at Santa Anita in December 2001.

He followed with four consecutive wins over eight months, a streak that included a victory in the restricted El Cajon Stakes at Del Mar last September. During that time, he went six months between starts because of a leg injury.

Following the El Cajon, Joey Franco showed erratic form, losing five starts during the fall and winter before Frankel moved him to Vienna's barn in March.

"I like Dave," Frankel said of Hofmans. "I wanted to change my luck."

For Vienna, Joey Franco finished second to Bluesthestandard in the Grade 3 Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup Handicap in late March before starting his current winning streak.

"I feel kind of lucky to be the recipient of the care he received," Vienna said after the Ack Ack, referring to the work done by Hofmans.

Joey Franco is by Avenue of Flags out of Susan Powter, who was winless during a brief racing career. A California-bred, Susan Powter has been a successful broodmare, producing Miss Lawless, a stakes winner of $212,694 for Frankel, in addition to Joey Franco.

Susan Powter is boarded at Golden Eagle Farm in Ramona, and is often bred to stallions standing at that Southern California farm. She has an Event of the Year yearling filly, an Avenue of Flags colt at her side, and has been bred back to that stallion, Frankel said.

Avenue of Flags, a 15-year-old, stands for private treaty at Golden Eagle. Through 2002, his progeny have earned in excess of $1 million in six of the last seven years through 2002.

Susan Powter's 2-year-old, by Free House, was sold for $90,000 last summer at the Del Mar sale, but has yet to start because of back problems.

Miss Lawless has a Bertrando colt by her side and has been bred to Event of the Year.

Frankel has emphasized California racing and breeding in his program in recent years, but he does have one horse in training with Mike Stidham in the Midwest. He says he has declined offers to send Susan Powter to Kentucky.

"I've had offers for Joey's dam to be bred in Kentucky next year but I won't do that," he said. "I don't want to start shipping her."

Frankel splits his time between Dallas and the Del Mar area. He sold a sportswear business five years ago and currently has an Internet company that specializes in California real estate licenses.

The success of Joey Franco will get Frankel to California frequently in coming months, especially with major sprint stakes such as the Triple Bend and Pat O'Brien on the horizon.

"I don't know if he'll go further," Frankel said. "You're afraid to test it and you don't want to give up a good race. I really think he's coming into his own."