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Jockey Wilmer Garcia Continues to Develop

Saratoga Race Course 2012 logo
Photo: NYRA

Wilmer Garcia, a seven-pound apprentice who was 12th in the jockey standings with eight wins through Thursday, is content with the way his first Saratoga meet has transpired so far but also remains dedicated to his pursuit for constant self-improvement.


“I want trainers to say, ‘He’s a good kid, he’s a hard worker,’ but I know I can do better,” said Garcia, a 20-year-old who was born in the Bronx but spent most of his childhood in Puerto Rico. “The trainers and jockeys are trying to teach me. ‘Put your [rear] down, keep your head over their neck, look between their ears,’ things I’ll do better with practice.”


While growing up in Puerto Rico, Garcia helped take care of the Paso Fino horses on a relative’s farm. After graduating from mechanic school, Garcia returned to the United States when he was 18 and worked as a cleaner until he had saved enough money to purchase his first car. He aspired to become a jockey, and he started at the ground level by working as a hot walker and groom for Penn National-based trainer Norman Pointer and later rode 2-year-olds in Ocala, Fla. for trainer Mark Casse.


“I like speed horses, so I started by myself,” said Garcia. “This is what I like.”


Garcia’s rode in his first race last November at Penn National and began to split time between that venue and Aqueduct Racetrack in March. In April, he made New York his primary circuit and won 12 races from 191 mounts during the spring/summer meet at Belmont Park.


Former jockey Richard Migliore, who mentors NYRA’s apprentice riders, commended Garcia for how his commitment to learning as much as possible.


“Wilmer has improved tremendously since I first met him in March, and he’s a great kid,” said Migliore. “He’s improved as much as I’ve ever seen a rider improve over that length of time. He’s going to continue to improve because he has the right attitude and is willing to listen. He’s a great listener and is able to take criticism well.”


Instead of being daunted by the Saratoga riding colony – which features Hall of Famers Kent Desormeaux, Edgar Prado, and John Velazquez, two-time reigning Eclipse Award winner Ramon Dominguez, Javier Castellano, Jose Lezcano, and Joel Rosario – Garcia appreciates the opportunity to compete against many of the world’s best riders.


“People talk to me and ask me if it’s tough [riding in New York], but I never say I can’t,” said Garcia. “I’m giving it my best effort to show that I can do it, too. I’m trying my best to keep it going. It’s a little tough, but this is what I like to do. I can do more and I can keep learning.”



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