12/03/2003 12:00AM

Thistledown track report


NORTH RANDALL, Ohio - Everything has come together this year for trainer Rodney Faulkner, who on Wednesday ranked 19th in the nation with 125 wins.

Faulkner won his first meet trainer title at the Randall meeting and has a commanding 32-18 lead at the current Cranwood meeting, which ends on Dec. 16. He has won 96 races here this year and could break the Cranwood record of 42 as well as the Thistledown yearly mark of 113.

Faulkner, a 39-year-old native of Big Spring, Texas, has a string of 55 horses and all but four are family owned. He has had a busy year, racing horses at Beulah Park, Mountaineer, and Great Lakes Downs from his Thistledown base.

Faulkner grew up in a horse racing family. His father, Joe Faulkner, trained Quarter Horses in the Southwest, and Rodney rode match races as early in life as age 8. Joe switched to Thoroughbreds, and Rodney took out his first trainer's license at Bandera Downs when he turned 18 and won his first race there.

Rodney Faulkner came to Thistledown last year, along with his father and brother, Randy, who also was a trainer at the time.

Most of Faulkner's horses are Texas-breds, which he, his father, and his brother are always assessing for purchase.

Faulkner's wife of five years, Peggy, works as a nurse who also keeps the stable's books and looks for races for the horses here and at nearby racetracks.

Peggy's 16-year-old son, Frankie Pennington, began his riding career here about three months ago and won his first race on Sept. 21, aboard Confused Genius, who is trained by Faulkner. Since then, Pennington has won with 13 of his 126 mounts and appears to have a bright future. Frankie is exactly five foot tall and tacks 97 pounds.

After the meet ends, Faulkner will spend the winter at Penn National, and Pennington will ride at both Penn National and Philadelphia Park.

* Eighty-two-year-old trainer, M. D. "Irish" Owens is having one of his best seasons. Owens has sent out 93 horses and won with 30 of them. A regular here since the mid 1950's, Owens will race at Gulfstream Park this winter as usual.