Photo: Benoit Photo
has paid his dues.
From slinging hash in a Bay Area deli 10 years ago, through hard work and persistence, the 29-year-old jockey has become a mainstay with one of the world’s most successful racing operations, that of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
At Santa Anita this weekend, Garcia rides two morning line favorites for Baffert in a pair of important races, the Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on Saturday, and the Grade II Palos Verdes Stakes for older sprinters on Sunday.
Garcia virtually is on call for Baffert 24/7. He is a regular at the barn most every morning, working Baffert’s blueblood Thoroughbreds, even though he doesn’t always get to ride all of them in the afternoons.
Fortunately, such is not the case this weekend, when Garcia rides 2-1 morning line favorite Streaming in the Las Virgenes, and Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Secret Circle, the 4-5 choice in the Palos Verdes.
"I’ve been working Secret Circle, and I think he’s better than he was last year,” Garcia said of the 5-year-old Eddington horse, who is unbeaten in two starts under Garcia, including the Breeders’ Cup race last Nov. 2.
“I also work Streaming,” said the native of Veracruz, Mexico, whose agent is Brad Pegram. “I work everyone. Streaming and Secret Circle are both very good horses, and it’s good to be on them in the afternoon. I work hard and I’m grateful to get the opportunity to ride horses like this for Bob in big races.”
Another relatively unsung hero at the Baffert barn is assistant Jim Barnes, who recognizes full well the contribution made by Garcia.
“Martin has just been a great guy,” Barnes said. “He works very hard for us,” emphasizing the word ‘very.’ It’s paid off for him. He’s wound up with more than a couple of nice horses. He does work hard every day, but it’s paid off for him, I’ll say that.”
The field for the Las Virgenes, a major steppingstone to the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks on April 5: Saintly Joan, Martin Pedroza, 15-1; Fashion Plate, Gary Stevens, 4-1; Arethusa, Corey Nakatani, 8-1; Artemis, Mike Smith, 4-1; Earthflight, Tyler Baze, 15-1; Sushi Empire, Victor Espinoza, 8-1; Taste Like Candy, Rafael Bejarano, 5-2; and Streaming, Martin Garcia, 2-1.
The field for the Palos Verdes: Wild Dude, Rafael Bejarano, 9-2; Sahara Sky, Corey Nakatani, 5-2; Majestic Stride, Edwin Maldonado, 4-1; Secret Circle, Martin Garcia, 4-5; and Moonshine Bay, Gary Stevens, 12-1.