05/30/2013 5:14PM

Louisiana Downs: String King fitter for defense of John Franks Memorial title


String King and Little Ms Protocol both placed in graded stakes races in their last starts in efforts that distinguish them from their competition Saturday in a pair of statebred stakes at Louisiana Downs.

String King leads eight older horses in the $50,000 John Franks Memorial, while Little Ms Protocol takes on six fillies and mares in the $50,000 Honeybee. Both races will be run at a mile on the grass, and are restricted to Louisiana-breds.

String King, who is pushing $400,000 in career earnings, will be defending his Franks title and enters the race in peak form. He has won two of his last four starts, with his defeats during that time coming in graded stakes at Fair Grounds. He was second to Optimizer in the Grade 3 Colonel Bradley on Jan. 26, then came back one start later and ran third in the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz in his most recent out March 30. String King was prominent to the late stages of that race, and was beaten 3 1/2 lengths at 26-1.

“He was just 75, 100 yards short of taking them the whole way,” said Charles Smith, who bred, owns, and trains String King. “It was my fault. He only had two works in 72 days prior to that race. One more little half-mile work, he might have taken them the whole way.”
Smith said he made a judgment call on String King’s work pattern for the Muniz.

“He doesn’t need too much in between races,” he said. “I’d rather be guilty of undertraining than overtraining. He puts a lot into his gallops. I could have worked him as many times as I wanted, but I figured that was plenty. I’ll accept the kick in the butt for that. It was definitely my fault, not the horse’s. He sure tried.”

And tried against class rivals. Amira’s Prince had won the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida at Gulfstream one start before claiming the Muniz. Willcox Inn, the Muniz runner-up, came back last month and just missed in the Grade 2 Dixie at Pimlico. As for String King, he has been focused on the Franks.

“I’ve had three works in him since the Mervin Muniz, here at Louisiana Downs,” Smith said. “It’s a little bit more than what I normally do with him, but I’ve got to do something to keep him on the ground instead of up in the rafters. And he’ll get up in the rafters!”
String King will be cutting back from 1 1/8 miles.

“It won’t be a problem. He’s got enough legit speed,” Smith said. “He can sit close or lay back a little. He can go to the front.”

Other set to start include Sadie’s Soldier, the five-length winner of the $50,000 John Henry at Evangeline Downs.

Little Ms Protocol was third in the Grade 3 Sixty Sails at Hawthorne on April 20. She was 10-1 in the race in which Grade 2 winners Disposablepleasure and Brushed by a Star finished 1-2.

“Really, two tough mares beat her,” said Patrick Devereux, who trains Little Ms Protocol. “We got her graded stakes-placed, and that looks good next to [her] half-million in earnings.”

Saturday, Little Ms Protocol will be making a rare turf start.

“She actually has a stakes win on that turf course at Shreveport,” Devereux said of Louisiana Downs.