05/11/2004 11:00PM

Turf course, stakes honor Franks


BOSSIER CITY, La. - There will be lots of John Franks stories traded on Friday at Louisiana Downs.

The track will honor the late Eclipse Award-winning owner and breeder by renaming its turf course for him and a new stakes, the $50,000 John Franks Memorial, which drew 13 horses for its inaugural running Friday.

Also, a commissioned sculptured bust of Franks will be placed on the first floor of the track.

An oilman based in Shreveport, Franks died on Dec. 31. He bred or raced 13 millionaires, and was a four-time Eclipse Award winner. Franks was also North America's leading breeder six times, its leading owner by wins six times, and its leading owner by earnings five times. He is the all-time winningest owner at Louisiana Downs, winning consecutive titles from 1982 through 1999.

"John Franks made Louisiana Downs racing," said Ray Tromba, the track's vice president of racing operations. "We were so fortunate for so many years to have one of the biggest giants in the industry in our own back yard."

For the Franks Memorial, a one-mile race for Louisiana-breds, White Star will move back to turf. The last time he raced on grass he won the $82,000 Shiskabob at Louisiana Downs on Oct. 11. He comes into Friday's race sharp, having won a five-furlong allowance at Evangeline Downs on April 19.

Kirk LeBlanc, who is back from a wrist injury sustained at Fair Grounds, has the mount for trainer Corale Richards.

Witt Ante was second to the Franks-bred Kiss a Native last out in the $50,000 John Henry Handicap at Evangeline on May 1. Roman Chapa has the mount for trainer Larry Robideaux Jr.

Prized Amberpro bred to Tiznow

Prized Amberpro, a 7-year-old mare who won multiple Louisiana-bred stakes over the past three seasons, has been retired and bred to Tiznow, said her longtime trainer, John Gelner.

Tiznow won the Super Derby at Louisiana Downs in 2000, and went on to capture back-to-back runnings of the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Prized Amberpro closed out her career a winner, having taken an open company allowance at Delta Downs on March 6. Overall, the mare - a $10,000 claim several years back by owners Linda Patch and Joseph Thomas - won 18 of 43 starts and $553,877.

Prized Amberpro registered seven of her wins in stakes and placed in nine others. "She was so versatile," said Gelner. "She would run just about any distance, winning from six furlongs to a mile and a sixteenth, and she ran against the boys and beat them."

Prized Amberpro accomplished that during the All-Star Jockey Championship, when she carried Chris McCarron to victory in the first leg of the competition, held each year at Lone Star Park.

Prized Amberpro will have her foal in Louisiana, said Gelner, who said she was bred to Tiznow upon the recommendation of pedigree analysts. She will reside on a farm in Lafayette.

Norman seeks title No. 7

Trainer Cole Norman is after his seventh consecutive title at Louisiana Downs, challenging the record of nine straight titles won by Frank Brothers from 1980 to 1988.

Louisiana Downs is Norman's home track, and he said he has 50 horses on the grounds for the meet. Following the close of neighboring Lone Star, where he is the current leading trainer, he will bring another 40 horses into Louisiana.

With that concentration of horsepower, he will be tough to beat in the trainers' race.

Norman will also have a say in the riders' race. Among the riders he plans to use at the meet are John Jacinto, Gerard Melancon, Roman Chapa, and Jamie Theriot, who is now is riding at Evangeline.

* Louisiana Downs will again draw its races at least 72 hours in advance this meet, and already the field for the $50,000 Honeymoon on Saturday is set. Among the starters are See How She Runs, Tiva's Little Sis, Cherylville Slew, and the Bobby Barnett-trained Float and Sting.

* In a new policy, 7 1/2-furlong turf races that are moved to the main track will be contested at seven furlongs. In the past, they were held over a mile and 70 yards.

* Ted Bogich is the new senior vice president and general manager of Louisiana Downs.

* Fred Stone, the renowned equine artist, will be here from Friday through Sunday.