Joey Franco Named California-Bred Horse of the Year

Jerry Frankel's Joey Franco, who won the Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. I) and the Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) in 2003, was named the California-bred Horse of the Year.

The announcement was made during the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association annual awards banquet Feb. 9 before a crowd of about 125 at the Sheraton Grande Hotel in Sacramento.

Joey Franco also brought home awards as the year's outstanding older male and sprinter in 2003. Trained by Darrell Vienna, he earned $452,361 and won four stakes races during the year--he also took the Tiznow and Ack Ack--and finished second in the Potrero Grande Handicap (gr. II). Now a 5-year-old, Joey Franco is recuperating from a suspensory injury sustained in October's Goodwood Handicap (gr. II), won by Pleasantly Perfect. 

Frankel, who bred and owns Joey Franco, said he expected the son of Avenue of Flags, out of the Native Prospector mare Susan Powter, to return to training in two to three months. A producer of Broadway shows, Frankel maintains residences in Carlsbad, Calif., as well as Dallas, Texas, and hopes to have his horse ready for the 2004 Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) at Lone Star Park.

Frankel co-produced the Tony Award-winning revival of "Death of a Salesman" on Broadway in 1999, and has had his hand in a number of other well-known Broadway shows such as "Jekyll and Hyde" (2001) and the revival of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" (1999).

But he noted that in the show business world, he's often confused with Richard Frankel, executive producer of the long-running blockbuster "The Producers," as well as "Smokey Joe's Café" and "The Rocky Horror Show." In Thoroughbred racing circles, he shares the same last name as the five-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer, Bobby Frankel, which also causes confusion.

"So here I am sandwiched between two people who are in the news all of the time," Frankel said. "Now if someone asks me who I am, I can say, 'I'm Jerry Frankel and I own the California horse of the year.' "

in explaining how Joey Franco got his name, Frankel said that because of his habit of talking too fast in his phone messages, people who didn't know him would often return his call asking for 'Joey Franco' instead. "I decided I had to give one my horses that name," he said.

Frankel said Joey Franco is the best horse he has owned in 25 years. In 1978, he had Arkansas Derby winner Esops Foibles, who ran fifth in the Kentucky Derby at odds of 50-1 and then got off the Triple Crown trail.

"That was the year of Affirmed and Alydar, so there wasn't much point in trying to beat them," he said.

Joey Franco beat out 3-year-old champion Excessivepleasure and millionaire Continental Red for Horse of the Year honors. Excessive Pleasure won three derbies--the WinStar, Iowa, and Indiana (gr. III)--and led all California-breds in earnings with $821,781. Continental Red, the 2002 California Horse of the Year, won just one stakes last year but was graded stakes-placed three times and earned $216,705.

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