By Hank Wesch /Del Mar (Paulick Report)
The name, Geovanni Franco, registers as Italian.
The birthplace listed in the Del Mar jockey roster says Mexico City.
The word Franco received recently from a family sage took him to yet another place.
“I had to go back to Mexico last year for an emergency, I got to talk to my grandfather and ask where his family came from and he said ‘Spain,’” Franco said Wednesday morning at the track kitchen in the stable area. “But that was a long time ago.”
What Franco, 27, was doing Wednesday morning – exercising horses and preparing to ride four races in the afternoon – was the same thing he did Sunday morning. And his appearance on Sunday was as surprising as the young jockey’s family heritage to those who had seen the spill to which he was a party in Saturday’s 10th race.
Franco and Corey Nakatani were both unseated and thrown to the turf. Franco came out of it with a bruised foot and was able to ride workouts the next morning and win Sunday’s ninth race on Johnny Strong ($39.80) for trainer Gary Stute. Nakatani incurred a back injury that will require surgery and will sideline him for several months.
“You ever been on a roller coaster? You get to the highest point, you know you’re going down and there’s nothing you can do about it. That’s what I remember,” Franco said. “You hope for the best and thank God we came out of it OK.
“We’re still here and we’ve got to keep going. We’re hoping for Corey to have a steady recovery. Assael Espinoza (apprentice who caused the accident) came to the hospital to see both me and Corey. I thought that was a very classy thing to do for such a young (18) kid.”
Franco does not hail from a racing family, but had two uncles who worked at a track in Mexico City. One was a groom, the other a farrier. The farrier, as the story goes, suggested to nephew Geovanni that he shouldn’t be under the horses, but on top riding them. That’s where Franco has been, professionally, since 2009.