Franklin to bid for jockey's license

Ex-teen phenom, `drug-free since 2000,' wants to ride in La.

February 20, 2007|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN REPORTER

Ron Franklin, who became famous as the teenage rider of Spectacular Bid in 1979 before his career was derailed by drug use, said last night he is prepared to face the Maryland Racing Commission today and ask for his jockey's license back.

"I'm comfortable asking, though I think I'll get a little nervous when actually talking to them face-to-face," Franklin said. "I've done everything they've asked."

Franklin, 47, who grew up in Dundalk and attended Patapsco High School, rode the Bud Delp-trained Spectacular Bid to victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness 28 years ago at age 19. He first lost his jockey's license in 1992 and was rejected by the commission when he tried to get it restored in 1996.

"At that time, they asked me to go to meetings and receive counseling," Franklin said by phone from his attorney's office in Lutherville. "I've been doing that. I've been going for counseling. I've been seeing the doctor at the Fairgrounds Race Course [in New Orleans]. I go to group meetings and [Narcotics Anonymous] in Louisiana.

"It's tough sometimes, but I've been drug-free for a long time now -- since 2000, I think. ... I think Bill Borchardt is pretty much on my side this time."

Borchardt is the director of the Horseman's Counseling Program, which is provided by the University of Maryland. Part of his job is to act as a gatekeeper for the commission and verify that individuals are attending meetings and receiving treatment.

Asked about Franklin's comment, Borchardt said: "I can't respond to that or talk about his case prior to the hearing. But I will be at the meeting."

Two years ago, the commission restored Franklin's exercise-rider license. Since then, he has been exercising horses in Louisiana, as many as 20 in one morning, impressing trainers with his work ethic. He said one of them has offered him a ride at the Fairgrounds if he can get his Louisiana jockey's license.

To do that, he first must be reinstated in Maryland.

His attorney, Jose Molina, said Franklin has many supporters in Louisiana and believes the commission will be impressed by the support system he has in place there.

Franklin also has supporters elsewhere. Edgar Prado, who has ridden against Franklin, said yesterday he hopes Franklin gets to race again.

"He became too popular at a young age and didn't have the right support behind him," said Prado, like Franklin an Eclipse Award winner. "Everyone was his friend then. Everyone wanted to be his friend. He had a lot of choices and at that age, you can make a left turn. Unfortunately, he didn't have the right person guiding him, and you can't really blame him because he was so young.

"I know he's trying hard to put his life back together. He's proven his ability to ride. ... If everything is in order, why not? When you're convicted of drunk driving, you go to classes, clean up your act and get another chance."

Franklin refuses to blame his early success for his struggle with drugs.

"I don't think it had anything to do with it," he said. "I'm an addict. It wouldn't have mattered if I'd worked on the back of the garbage truck."

Franklin said this appeal will be his last.

"If it doesn't happen," he said, "I'll go back to Louisiana anyway and mind my P's and Q's, maybe train some horses off the farm."

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

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