Sports

Frankthebank will make his 445th and final start Friday at Cal Expo

Frankthebank (No. 2), with Luke Plano driving, charges to victory at Cal Expo earlier this year. The 14-year-old pacer makes the 445th – and final – start of his career tonight.
Frankthebank (No. 2), with Luke Plano driving, charges to victory at Cal Expo earlier this year. The 14-year-old pacer makes the 445th – and final – start of his career tonight. Crystal View photo

Few pro athletes – human or equine – stretch their careers beyond a decade. But Frankthebank is a true iron horse.

Competing mostly at Cal Expo, the 14-year-old pacer has won 59 of 444 starts, earning more than $470,000.

Friday marks Franthebank’s farewell. He’ll make his final start in Cal Expo’s13th race. Post time will be about 10:40 p.m.

It’s a forced retirement, said trainer George Reider, who sent Frankthebank to the starter 125 times. Under U.S. racing rules, harness horses can’t compete past age 14.

Frankthebank turns 15 on Jan. 1, the official birthday for all racehorses. He’ll retire to his owners’ Last Chance Ranch near Yosemite.

“It’s going to be a sad day when he leaves for his retirement, like saying goodbye to a good friend and a good buddy,” Reider said. “We’ve traveled a lot of places together and I’m pretty sure he’s going to miss being at the barn. Hopefully, he’ll adjust to his new life quickly.”

Owned by Richard and Marlene Thomas of Coarsegold, Frankthebank raced for 13 seasons, starting at age 2 and averaging 34 starts a year. In 2007, he raced 48 times, winning 10 times. Friday’s race will be his 39th start of 2016.

His lifetime best came at age 9: 1 minute 51 seconds for the mile, set in 2011 at Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania.

“He’s all business,” said Marlene Thomas, who first claimed Frankthebank when he was 3. “We lost him a couple of times (to claims) but always got him back.”

Cal Expo plans a retirement ceremony for Frankthebank on Sunday at the first race, she said.

Born in Illinois, the bay gelding has been well traveled, competing in six states and at such tracks as Hawthorne, Balmoral, Running Aces, Indiana Downs and Yonkers.

“Frankthebank is the definition of an iron horse, especially when you think of all the places he’s been and all the different barns,” Reider said. “As we’re getting close to the end of his career, it makes me kind of sad.”

Frankthebank, who will be driven by Luke Plano in his finale, remains competitive. He comes into Friday’s pace off three consecutive second-place finishes. His last victory was July 22 at Hawthorne in Illinois.

Reider plans to get Frankthebank an appropriate retirement gift: a 25-pound bag of carrots.

Debbie Arrington: 916-321-1075, @debarrington

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