By Nicholas Godfrey
USA: Manny Franco, jockey on Tiz The Law, reckons a return to Churchill Downs, the only venue at which he has tasted defeat, holds no fears for the Kentucky Derby favourite.
Tiz The Law’s sole defeat in seven career starts came beneath the Twin Spires on his final outing as a two-year-old when he was only third in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club.
So much has changed since then for the New York-bred son of Constitution, who has completed a G1 hat-trick in 2020 as victories in the Florida Derby and Belmont Stakes were followed by a stunning 5½-length triumph on August 8 in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga.
Franco, who has partnered Tiz the Law to four G1 wins altogether, said the Barclay Tagg-trained star has matured since his last appearance at Churchill Downs.
“He’s a different horse now,” said the 25-year-old, speaking to the NYRA media team. “He’s very mature and he’s improving race by race and I’m really happy with the way he’s doing it. His mind is growing and he’s doing everything the right way. He’s ready for whatever happens.”
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While Franco was able to gear down Tiz the Law in deep stretch in the Travers, the jockey told NYRA reporters he does not expect to have that luxury at Churchill Downs.
“The Derby won’t be an easy race, so we have to be prepared for everything that day and I think on that day, I’m going to have to make him run and see what he has in the tank,” Franco said.
“He gave me great confidence after the last race because he handled the mile and a quarter, and the way he won, it gave me more confidence,” the rider went on.
“If we get a good position, it’s going to be the same. We just need a good break and put him where he’s comfortable, and he’ll have a great race.”
Tiz The Law has provided the highlight of Franco’s flourishing career. The Puerto Rican has won the last two New York Racing Association year-end riding titles on a highly competitive circuit, while last November, he won his first career Breeders’ Cup race, guiding Sharing to victory in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
Tiz The Law’s Belmont Stakes victory was Franco’s first Classic triumph. “This is a horse that any rider needs; we all need a shot on this kind of horse,” Franco said.
“I’m really enjoying the moment to have this opportunity,” he went on. “I’m trying to do the best I can. He does things the other horses can’t. I put him wherever I want and he’s going to be there for me. Some horses, that’s not [the case]. He has a lot of ability. He’s very easy to ride. He rates. He does whatever I ask.”
Franco, who started riding in the United States in 2013, has won seven of his 11 career G1s since 2019. His agent is the legendary Angel Cordero, who won a pair of Kentucky Derbys with Bold Forbes in 1976 and Spend a Buck in 1985.
“Angel is a Hall of Fame rider and I’m just happy to have him on my side because he’s been in this position before and he always talks to me about how to handle this time,” Franco said. “I’m just blessed to have him in my corner. I just listen to him and try to put it in practice.”