Manny Franco has won more than 1,000 races during his career as a jockey, but he had never won a Triple Crown race until his historic Belmont win astride New York-bred Tiz the Law June 20.
Franco, a 25-year-old and native of Puerto Rico, started racing professionally in 2013 after going to the racetracks with his father growing up. While he had plenty of success throughout his career, his victory in the Belmont has elevated his status in the racing community.
Franco said he went into the race with confidence in his mount and the team of people surrounding Tiz the Law, including veteran trainer Barclay Tagg.
“The horse gave me that confidence because I’ve been getting on him in the mornings to work him,” Franco said on Glenn Clark Radio June 29. “I knew what I had under me. I’m in good hands with Barclay Tagg. He’s been the trainer and he has been in this position before, and he knows what he is doing.”
That confidence in Tagg’s experience comes from the trainer’s epic run with Funny Cide in 2003. Funny Cide won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, only to lose in the Belmont and fall short of the Triple Crown.
Tiz the Law showed success from the start, and Franco said he is grateful to Tagg and the team for their support and the opportunity to ride what he calls a special horse.
“He’s a good guy. He is loyal, too,” Franco said. “He helped a lot to keep me on the horse. He is an old school guy and he knows what he is doing. He was in this position with the other New York-bred, Funny Cide.”
Franco said he is very confident in Tiz the Law’s ability to stay consistent and continue to race well. The pair’s next race will be the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Aug. 8. Following that race will be the remaining two Triple Crown Races — the Kentucky Derby Sept. 5 and the Preakness Oct. 3.
While many are already speculating on the horse’s potential in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Franco said he isn’t focused on that now because he wants to stay in the moment and focus on preparing for the Travers.
“I’m not thinking about the Kentucky Derby right now because the next race is going to be the Travers,” Franco said, “so I’m more concentrated right now on the Travers.”
He doesn’t think that the long break in between the Belmont and the Travers or the wait following the Travers will be a problem for Tiz the Law because Franco said that Tagg is very good at working with the horse.
He added that Tiz the Law is very special and does not require a lot of maintenance because the horse is so intelligent.
“The time is not really a problem with the horse because Barclay doesn’t have to do much with the horse,” Franco said. “[Tiz the Law] is very intelligent and easy to train and he is going to bring the horse ready either way.”
The Belmont, normally the last of the three Triple Crown races, was run first this year after the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness were postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The race was also shortened this year from 1 1/2 miles to 1 1/8 miles to make it fairer for the horses that hadn’t been racing for several months. Franco said it was a good idea and that trainers might have hesitated to bring horses back if the race was run in its normal format.
While many said that the shorter race would diminish the achievement of its winner, Tiz the Law won in commanding fashion. Franco said that had the race been its normal length, his horse still would’ve won — but Tiz the Law might have had a bigger margin of victory.
“It’s going to be the same result because I think my horse can go the distance,” he said.
Like other sporting events of late, the Belmont took place without any fans in the stands this year, and the thunderous roar of the crowd was absent when Tiz the Law and the other horses in the field broke from the starting gate.
Franco said that this was actually advantageous for the horses because when there is a huge level of excitement in the crowd, it can make them anxious and harder to control.
“When the fans are on the track, the horses get excited,” Franco said. “They know. They get kind of excited and anxious and I think that the horses now are calmer with no fans. That helps a lot of horses.”
Although he wouldn’t talk about his concerns for the two remaining Triple Crown races, Franco said he can “definitely” see Tiz the Law taking the Crown.
Franco looks forward to the next steps with his special mount and knows he is living the dream of every jockey in America right now. He is content to focus on the present.
“It will mean a lot because these kinds of races — the Triple Crown races — it’s the dream of every jockey,” Franco said. “Every jockey wants to win a race like that, and I’m one of them. I want to win those races. Hopefully we can get it done.”
For more from Franco, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Adam Coglianese