A day after writing his name in the history of the Puerto Rican horse riding, the rider Manuel "Manny" Franco did not go to celebrate his victory at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.
Quite the contrary; on Sunday he was back on the track at Belmont Park looking for more wins.
This is the life of a professional rider, and more than one of the level of Franco, whose rides are highly coveted in the equestrian industry.
"I was working, and I won the last one" Franco said jubilantly in a telephone interview with El Nuevo Día on Sunday, after finishing his work day at Belmont Park. On Saturday, Franco rode the Belmont Stakes favorite, Tiz the Law, and the result was a resounding 3 3/4 length victory.
At 25, Franco had his first victory in a career in the Triple Crown. The famous series will be held this year out of the traditional order after the date changes due to the coronavirus . The Belmont -usually the third race- was disputed first. The Kentucky Derby will then take place on September 5 and the Preakness Stakes on October 3.
Tiz the Law is the favorite to win the Triple Crown, the greatest feat in American horse racing. On that possibility, and what he experienced on Saturday, Franco spoke with El Nuevo Día .
Saturday's race went perfectly. Was the plan established?
-It went as we expected. We started in third, fourth position, not far from the pass. The horse started well, it came out as we expected. He relaxed, calmed down, and when it was time to make him run, he took off.
What was the first thing that crossed your mind when you crossed the finish line?
-It was a dream come true. That is what any rider wants: to win a Triple Crown race. Thank God, at my young age and career, I had the opportunity to experience it.
How do you handle the pressure of riding your favorite horse?
-The days before the race I didn't get that in my mind. I was calm, confident in my horse. I was working on it. It was all a matter of things going as planned. And thank God, it was and the horse did not disappoint us. I was always calm and confident.
How was the experience of running the Belmont Stakes without an audience and with all the health protocols?
-One feels strange, it is something we are not used to. But, it is the moment that we are living and thank God we are working, we are riding. I see it this way: at least we are doing what we like. There are no spectators, but in due course they will arrive and everything will be as before.
Manny Franco is among the great names of historical horsemen. How does it feel
-It is a pride. We were four Puerto Rican riders (Franco, John Velázquez, Irad Ortiz, Jr. And José Luis Ortiz) competing (in the Belmont Stakes). I feel super proud to be among them and to have won the race for Puerto Rico.
What did John Velázquez and the brothers Irad and José Luis tell you after the race?
-They were very happy, they hugged me, congratulated me. You are good friends of mine.
How is that relationship between you? Friends or rivals?
-It is like everything, work is work. When we are on the track we are enemies; we have to win and each one has his business. I consider the Ortiz brothers of another mother. John Velázquez is a legend who, since I was in school, I looked at him and wanted to be just like him. And now I am competing with him and trying to follow in his footsteps.
What is it about the Canóvanas horse racing vocational school that produces four of the ten riders who ran on Saturday in Belmont Park?
-The school It has helped us a lot. We have the advantage that other American and Latino riders do not have. They teach us how to deal with horses and also English. I think that is the advantage that we have; that we are two years learning everything related to being riders, an opportunity that other riders do not have. I think school is the best thing that can happen to a Puerto Rican rider.
You still have Tiz the Law as favorites for the rest of the Triple Crown. Is it something you have in mind?
-Of course it is. I think I have the ideal horse for those races and I hope the horse stays healthy. I'm in good hands because the coach (Barclay Tagg) has been through this. He had Funny Cide, who won the Derby, the Preakness and could not win the Belmont (2003). But he knows what he is doing, I am in good hands.
The objective is to win that Triple Crown?