01/18/2002 1:00AM

Prather headed to Oaklawn


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Apprentice rider Kris Prather has decided to leave Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., for the 54-day meet that begins Friday at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.

Prather, 23, a finalist for a 2001 Eclipse Award despite having missed about eight months with injuries, said she wanted to "try somewhere different" after having been dominant at Turfway.

"I've been labeled a Turfway rider," said Prather. "I don't have anything left to prove there. Hopefully I'll be able to show that horses will run for me at Oaklawn, too."

Prather, who will ride at Turfway through Sunday, said another factor in her decision was that her agent, Steve Elzey, will be at Oaklawn. Elzey also books James Lopez, who figures to be one of the top jockeys at the upcoming meet.

Into April last year, Prather was the leader among all North American riders with 110 wins. But she was injured March 17, returne for about six weeks in the summer, and was injured again. She returned Dec. 31 at Turfway, ending the year with 136 wins.

Prather retains her five-pound apprentice allowance until early May.