03/12/2017 6:11PM

Franco wisely chooses to ride Sunny Ridge in Stymie

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Joe Labozzetta/NYRA
Sunny Ridge, under Manny Franco, wins the Stymie by three-quarters of a length.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. -  Manny Franco had a difficult decision when it came to which horse to ride in Sunday’s $125,000 Stymie Stakes at Aqueduct.

Franco was the regular rider of Send It In, on whom he won six of eight races with two narrow defeats for trainer Todd Pletcher. Franco had ridden Sunny Ridge five times, with two victories in the Grade 3 Withers last year and the Jazil Stakes in January for trainer Jason Servis.

Franco told his agent - the Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero -  he thought Sunny Ridge was better.

On Sunday, at least, Franco was right.

Sitting in fifth position behind a strong early pace, Franco guided Sunny Ridge five wide in the stretch and he outfinished longshot Doyouknowsomething to win the Stymie by three-quarters of a length. Doyouknowsomething, under Angel Arroyo, finished three-quarters of a length in front of Send It In, the 2-1 favorite who nosed out Dolphus for third. Dolphus was followed, in order, by Admiral Blue, Royal Posse, Diversify, Turco Bravo, and Splashtastic. Grasshoppin scratched.

“I tell my agent both horses are good but I like [Sunny Ridge] more,” Franco said after the race. “I made that choice; it worked out good.”

Diversify, unbeaten in four starts, set a strong pace under Jose Ortiz, running a quarter-mile in 22.98 seconds, a half-mile in 47.01, and six furlongs in 1:11.37. One of his expected pace challengers, Doyouknowsomething, was squeezed back at the break. That left Dolphus to try to entertain Diversify.

Franco had Sunny Ridge 5 1/2 lengths off the pace down the backside. He had to split horses leaving the five-sixteenths pole and then was spun five wide turning for home. Dolphus took a short lead from a stubborn Diversify but both began to fade inside the eighth pole.

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Doyouknowsomething, the longest price on the board at 35-1, split horses in deep stretch, but he couldn’t match strides with Sunny Ridge late.

Sunny Ridge, as the 123-pound highweight spotting five to seven pounds to the field, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.19 and returned $10.20 as the 4-1 third choice.

“The assistant [Henry Argueta] told me to break, try to cover him up, when I think it was the right time to make my move do it,” Franco said. “It worked out good.”

Servis watched the race via simulcast from Ocala, Fla., where he is attending the upcoming auction of 2-year-olds.

“I guess the thing that impressed me the most is he threw his ears up the last part,” said Servis, who also won an allowance race at Gulfstream on Sunday. “I guess there’s a little more left in the tank. He’s a cool horse.”

Servis said he would consider the Charles Town Classic on April 22 for Sunny Ridge’s next start.