By Jim Charvat
Geovanni Franco © Benoit Photo
Jockey Geovanni Franco notched his 1,000th career win Saturday when the horse he was riding in the second race at Del Mar, Miss Commander, was moved up via a disqualification of the horse who finished first Unkept Secret. The stewards ruled that Unkept Secret came over on Franco and Miss Commander during a stretch-long duel. Unkept Secret ended up winning by a head and the stewards felt the bumping cost Miss Commander a placing.
For Franco, getting his 1,000th victory on a DQ didn’t tarnish the achievement.
“It doesn’t,” he said with a smile. “I’ve won plenty of races by DQ and I’ll take a winner any way they come.”
Franco has been riding at Del Mar since 2017, with a year off in 2022 when he moved his tack back to the Midwest and Kentucky. He returned to Del Mar this summer and rang-up 12 wins. This fall he has five.
“It’s truly humbling to have this 1,000th win at Del Mar,” Franco says. “To have been riding here the last five years makes it even better. I’ll be happy to get many more.”
Franco rode his first winner at Mexico City’s Hipodromo de las Americas in 2009. He went to Canada later that year and rode at Hastings Park in Vancouver, British Columbia. In March of 2010 he came to Santa Anita and rode the rest of the winter meet before heading up to Golden Gate. He would ride in Northern California through much of 2011 before finishing the year at Turf Paradise where he was the leading rider in 2012 and 2013.
He began branching out to other tracks in 2014, riding at Sunland Park, Santa Anita again, even Finger Lakes in New York and Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pennsylvania. He settled in the Midwest in 2015, riding at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, Remington Park in Oklahoma and Canterbury Park in Minnesota.
The highlights of Franco’s career include a runner-up finish to Golden Pal onboard Lieutenant Dan in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Del Mar. His first Grade I victory came with Fault in the Santa Margarita at Santa Anita in 2018 and in 2019 he got another Grade I with Secret Spice in the Beholder Mile.
In all, Franco has won has 20 graded stakes races, the latest coming this past summer at Del Mar with Senor Buscador in the G2 San Diego Handicap and on Motorious in the G3 Green Flash.
“I’m proud of myself,” Franco says, “and thankful with God.”