06/10/2010 11:00PM

Apprentice Franco making up for lost time

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Apprentice jockey Geovanni Franco is hoping his win aboard Dyna Stroll for trainer Troy Taylor in the $54,790 Jim Coleman Province for 3-year-olds last Saturday will help propel him to better mounts at the meet.

Franco was the leading apprentice at Hastings in 2009, and figured to be among the leading riders here this year. Instead, he didn't arrive here until a couple of weeks ago, and most of the quality mounts were already spoken for. He picked up the mount on Dyna Stroll when Mario Gutierrez opted to ride Cherokee Notion, who is also trained by Taylor. Gutierrez gets his choice of Taylor's horses, and he miscalculated Dyna Stroll's readiness to win going 6 1/2 furlongs.

Franco, 19, had plenty of success at Hastings last year despite arriving here well after the meet began. He began his career at Mexico City, where he rode 40 horses and won three races before arriving at Hastings in late June. His season took off after he booted home a couple of longshots in early July, and he won 30 races from 230 starts. Geovanni also won a stakes aboard Ganbei in the Derby Trial. He gave Dyna Stroll a perfect ride from off the pace to win the Jim Coleman Province by a neck over Sense of Humor.

After his success at Hastings last year, Geovanni was hoping to break in at Santa Anita this winter. Immigration problems held him up, though, and once again he was trying to play catchup when he arrived there at the end March. He did win one race from 18 mounts.

"I was supposed to be there on opening day," Franco said. "But my attorney had trouble getting all of the correct papers for me to ride in the United States. It was hard to get started. They have a lot of very good jockeys, and there were so many short fields that there just weren't many mounts available. I had the same agent as Martin Garcia, and there were just too many jockeys and not enough horses to ride. I just couldn't get going."

Franco decided to head north to Golden Gate, where the problem was even worse.

"That was a complete waste of time," Franco said. "I am glad to be back at Hastings, and it was nice to win the stakes last weekend."

One of the many positives for Franco is his light weight. He can tack 105 pounds, and with a lot of horses getting ready to stretch out for the first time this year, he should be very popular. He will also help fill the void with jockeys April Friesen and Robert Skelly out with injuries.

Heads due to end 0-for-40 slump

Despite being in the worst slump of her career, trainer Barbara Heads hasn't lost her sense of humor.

"I thought I was struggling when I was 0 for 17, but now what is it?" she said. "It is kind of like not having sex for a long time. When I finally do win a race I am really going to enjoy it."

The number Heads was looking for is 40, but there is an excellent chance she will get off the schneid this weekend. She has a lot of horses who are well spotted, and she is certainly due. One of the horses entered, Montero, looks very live in the first race Sunday and has been installed as the 9-5 morning-line favorite. Montero is coming off of a second-place finish in a $17,500 claiming race for fillies and mares going 6 1/2 furlongs May 21 and should move forward in her second start of the year. She is also dropping in price to $12,500 and coming back at the same distance. Montero won four races at Hastings last year.

"Shh," she said. "Don't jinx me."

There isn't much doubt that Heads will start winning soon. She has compiled a 316-277-295 record from 2,036 starts in her career, and she tied with Terry Clyde as leading trainer here in 2006. Last year, she finished second in the standings with 39 wins.

Huitzilopochtli's return unclear

Trainer Juan Olmos said it will be a while before last year's local 2-year-old champion, Huitzilopochtli, will make it back to the races. Huitzilopochtli won four stakes in a row last year, and his only loss came when he tried to stretch out to 1 1/16 miles in the Ascot Graduation.

"He developed some kind of rash on his shin, and the hair wouldn't grow back," Olmos said. "He's just starting to come around now, and he should go back in training in a couple of weeks. I really can't say when he'll make it back to the races, though."