05/31/2001 12:00AM

Prather nearly ready to ride


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Apprentice rider Kris Prather, who led the nation in victories for much of this year before injuring her knees, is nearing a return to action at Churchill Downs.

Prather, 22, exercised six horses at Churchill on Wednesday morning. "I'm not even sore," she said Thursday after working two more. "Realistically, I'm hoping to starting riding races again in about a week."

Prather suffered severely strained ligaments behind both knees in a starting-gate accident at Turfway Park on March 17. "It was my right hamstring that gave me the most trouble," she said. Prather recuperated at her parents' home in Montana for about a month before returning to Louisville.

Prather was easily the leading rider at the holiday meet (December) and the winter-spring meet (January-April) at Turfway Park. She has 110 victories in 2001, a number that kept her atop the North American jockey leader board even several weeks after she was injured. Her total has since been surpassed by about a dozen jockeys.