Jockey Spotlight: Manny Franco

Manny Franco has been one of the better jockeys on the NYRA circuit since 2013, and is just beginning to establish himself as a top-quality stakes rider.

Franco had a productive year as an apprentice in 2013. He got his career started at Aqueduct then moved to Monmouth Park for the summer, where he was the leading apprentice rider and sixth overall in the standings with 43 wins from 272 mounts.

“That was good for me,” he told the Daily Racing Form. “I picked up a lot more experience.”

Franco was nominated for the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice on the strength of his 130-win “rookie” campaign (1,089 mounts) where he earned over $4 million in purses, but was denied the honor by Victor Carrasco.

Franco did not let that deter him, as he compiled back-to-back 150-win years in 2014 and 2015. He’s on pace to eclipse his career-high of 155 wins this year, as he’s tallied over 140 wins as of this writing.

Franco has forged key partnerships with leading east coast trainers Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown, who have supplied him with two of his first few graded stakes winners to date.

Franco recorded his first ever graded stakes win aboard Pletcher’s Far From Over in the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct in February of 2015.

“I thought we were in trouble when, coming out of the gate, he stumbled,” Byron Hughes, assistant to winning trainer Todd Pletcher, told Bloodhorse after the race. “But [Franco] did a great job relaxing on him and making his move at the right time. It was one big move at the end, and it was perfect.”

“[Far From Over] had a bad step coming out of the gate and the game plan changed after that,” the poised Franco explained to Bloodhorse. “I just let him go however he wanted to go comfortable. At the three-eighths pole I picked it up and went for the lead.”

Franco was lauded by Chad Brown after he took the Grade II Commonwealth Derby at Laurel Park on Sept. 24 on Deeply Undervalued.

“It was a nice win,” Brown told Bloodhorse. “I’m really proud of [Franco] and the way he rode this horse. He got a great trip and a patient ride.”

But Franco’s best current mount would have to be Charlton Baker trainee Joking, with whom he captured the Grade II True North last June as well as the Grade I Vosburgh (Franco’s first ever Grade I win) on Oct. 1.

“I feel blessed,” Franco told TDN after the win. “That’s what all jockeys want to do, win a Grade I. I’m so happy. I rode him like I always do. When he got in the clear he gave me a big kick like always.”

Baker indicated Joking’s next start will be in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, which would give Franco a shot at his first Breeders’ Cup win.

The future looks bright for this talented young rider!

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