Working Hard for Spinoff
Kentucky Derby 2019 is bolstering Manny Franco's airline rewards account after picking up the mount on the Todd Pletcher-trained Spinoff.
After riding a full card Thursday at Aqueduct, Franco flew to Florida to work Spinoff at Palm Beach Downs this morning, then flew back to New York.
Spinoff breezed five furlongs in 59.99. After flying back to New York, Franco had mounts scheduled in six of the day's nine races at Aqueduct.
"I'm supposed to leave tonight and head down there and work...Friday," Franco said on Thursday afternoon. "I'm trying to know the horse. You have to do what you have to do. If you want to ride these types of horses and these types of races, you have to do whatever they ask. They called me to work the horse, so I have to go."
Franco won the Aqueduct winter meet's riding title with 98 winners. Entering Friday, Franco has 15 wins, one more than second-place rider Jose Lezcano, as he seeks to notch another title for the 12-day Aqueduct spring meet that concludes Saturday.
Wertheimer and Frere's Spinoff has 40 qualifying points to the Derby, ranking 19th on the leaderboard. His point totals are the same as Bodexpress, but Spinoff has the edge in non-restricted stakes earnings with $224,000.
The Hard Spun colt earned a personal-best 95 Beyer Speed Figure following a second-place finish in the Louisiana Derby on March 23, finishing three-quarters of a length behind By My Standards in his best career stakes performance.
John Velazquez was aboard for both the Louisiana Derby and Spinoff's third-place finish in the Saratoga Special back in August, but Velazquez is slated to ride Fountain of Youth winner Code of Honor for trainer Shug McGaughey.
That call allowed Franco to pick up the mount, which would be his second career Kentucky Derby start.
"I've watched the replays of him and saw the way he runs," Franco said. "From the races I've seen, I think he has speed. I don't think he'll be too far out of there, because he puts himself close. We'll see how the race develops."
Franco's previous Derby experience came with Tencendur in 2015, where the 52-1 longshot ran 17th for trainer George Weaver, who trains Vekoma ahead of Derby 145.
"Because I broke the ice and rode in my first Derby before, I think I'll be a little more relaxed," Franco said. "It won't be a surprise. Man, when I came in off the paddock and I saw all the people screaming and the race started, it was unbelievable. It was a dream come true."
The sights of more than 150,000 people jamming Churchill Downs was a special moment, Franco said, and having the chance to win the Triple Crown's first leg remains a goal of almost every rider who sits in the irons.
"The goal for all jockeys is to ride in the Derby and try and get the win," Franco said.