Harrah's Louisiana Downs will present Super Derby 40 on Saturday, September 7. The marquee event of the 2019 Thoroughbred meet will feature seven stakes, highlighted by the Grade 3, $300,000 Super Derby.
However, one other noteworthy feature will be the inaugural running of the $60,000 Frank L. Brothers Stakes. The mile and one-sixteenth turf contest was renamed this year to play tribute to the esteemed Louisiana native and conditioner who won a record nine training titles at Louisiana Downs.
“Frankie” as he is known in the industry, grew up in New Orleans.
“My father was an electrician and we had a family tradition of attending the races at Fair Grounds on Thanksgiving Day and then going home for dinner,” he explained.
His father's profession was not in the stars for Brothers; it was racing that inspired him. Brothers worked for the late Jack Van Berg, starting at the bottom cooling horses, gradually working his way up to one of the barn's assistant trainers. After a ten year affiliation with Van Berg, with much thought, and greater trepidation, he went out on his own.
“It was the scariest thing in the world,” admitted Brothers. “I had support from some very good owners, including Al Stall, Sr., John Franks and Mike Rutherford.”
Brothers shared that when he first began at Louisiana Downs, he had 12-16 horses in his barn. The number swelled considerably with his success in Shreveport where he won over 800 races and nine consecutive training titles from 1980 -1988.
In a career that spanned from 1974 to 2009, Brothers saddled 10,440 Thoroughbreds, winning 2,349 races and over $48.9 million in purses. He won the 1991 Preakness and Belmont with Hansel and developed the careers of graded stakes winners Pulpit, First Samurai, Dansil, Madcap Escapade, Arch and Secret Hello.
Brothers acknowledges the importance of his Louisiana roots and tenure at Louisiana Downs.
“Louisiana Downs was the place to be,” said Brothers.owner “The purses were good and I won my first training title there. We were very fortunate with the number of races offered.”
Brothers won the 1998 Super Derby with the Kentucky-bred Arch, owned by Claiborne Farms and Adele B. Dilschneider.
“When he was first starting out, he worked well, but didn't 'wow' you,” explained Brothers. “He won his first race and we took him to Florida. We had options, but decided on the Super Derby. Shane Sellers, who rode quite a few for me, had another commitment, so Corey Nakatani, who had ridden for me before, got the victory.”
Winning the Super Derby meant a great deal to Brothers.
“There were two races in Louisiana I really wanted to win: the Super Derby and the Louisiana Derby,” he added. I was able to win the Louisiana Derby with Mighty. Both will always be special for me.”
One other Louisiana runner who stood out for Brothers was a filly named Monique Rene. The Louisiana-bred daughter of Prince of Ascot, was foaled in 1978 and won 29 of her 45 starts for owner John Franks.
“She had no pedigree, but just loved to run,” stated Brothers. “She laid it on the line every time she went to the racetrack.”
Brothers retired as a trainer ten years ago. His operation had expanded to Kentucky, where he won training title at both Churchill Downs and Keeneland. He loved his horses, but moving three to four times a year and the daily grind required to run a top racing operation, were key factors in his decision.
Life these days is very good for the 73-year-old Brothers, who remains involved in the industry as a blood stock agent and advisor. He has been married to former jockey and television racing broadcaster Donna Barton Brothers for 21 years. The couple resides in Louisville and also has a condo in Saratoga Springs.
“She's great,” he proudly stated. “The best thing that ever happened to me!”
Brothers was inducted into the Fair Grounds Racing Hall of Fame in 1991 and in 2015, was the first Thoroughbred trainer to be inducted into the Louisiana Sport's Hall of Fame.
“We were very pleased to name a stakes in honor of Frankie Brothers,” said David Heitzmann, Director of Racing at Harrah's Louisiana Downs. “He had a tremendous legacy at Louisiana Downs, winning nine consecutive titles, and getting the respect from his owners, fans and fellow horsemen for the way he cared for each of his horses.”
Brothers will not be on hand to present the trophy to the winning connections of the stakes named in his honor due to his bloodstock and yearling sale obligations. However, the acknowledgment from Harrah's Louisiana Downs meant a great deal to the acclaimed horseman.
“It's quite an honor and I appreciated the call from David,” said Brothers. “I'm forever grateful for my time at Louisiana Downs, the number of races I was able to win and the wonderful horses and owners that made such an impact on my career.”
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