John Franks dominated the sport of horse racing for over twenty years and became one of the leading stable owners and breeders in the country.
Although John A. Franks did not become involved in horse racing until he was in his fifties, he excelled in the sport for more than twenty years as one of the leading stable owners and breeders in the country. Franks was born on April 21, 1925, in Haughton, Louisiana. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II and attended Louisiana State University on a track scholarship, graduating with a degree in geology in 1949. He established a successful oil and gas company in 1957, later branching out into real estate, cattle, and pecans.
In 1976, at the age of fifty-one, Franks purchased three mares for $3,400 and became involved in breeding. He quickly became a student of bloodlines, and it is said that he could trace the bloodline of his most successful horses back ten to twelve generations. Franks parlayed his business acumen and love of horses into one of the finest horse breeding and racing operations in the country, with a 2,200-acre ranch near Shreveport and another 1,000-acre ranch at Ocala, Florida.
Franks was the leading owner for eighteen consecutive years (1982–1999) at Louisiana Downs in Bossier City. It has been said that without Franks, Louisiana Downs, which opened in 1974, would not have survived. But Franks achieved success beyond Louisiana as well, leading the nation in victories six times and earnings five times. He was a four-time winner of the American Eclipse Award for Outstanding Owner (1983, 1984, 1993, 1994), receiving the award more often than any other owner.
Franks’s familiar orange and green silks were on more than a dozen horses that each earned more than a million dollars during their racing careers. Answer Lively, Royal Anthem, Halo America, Kissin Kris, and Sharp Cat were among the 100 stakes-race winners he owned. In 2002 poor health forced Franks to liquidate his horse racing and breeding operation of more than 500 horses, with 130 of the horses stabled at racetracks across the country.
Three stake races have been named in Franks’s honor: at Evangeline Downs in Opelousas, Louisiana Downs, and Calder Race Course in Miami, Florida. He was inducted into the Fair Grounds Hall of Fame (1992) and the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame (1995).
Franks died on December 31, 2003, in Shreveport.