What’s going on with Alan Garcia?

On opening weekend of Saratoga, I engaged in a Backstretch family tradition during morning workouts: breakfast with the nephews. Not the buffet breakfast on the ground floor of the clubhouse, but bagels and coffee upstairs in the boxes. Part of the tradition is a wander out to the clubhouse entrance, where a circle of jockeys surrounds a fountain. Each jockey holds a painted plaque with the name of a Grade I stakes race, and the names of the winning horse and its connections from the previous year. The nephews pitch pennies, trying to land one on the uppermost level of the fountain.

On this particular Sunday morning, we were not alone. An expensive, late model car pulled up; from one side emerged a lovely young blonde, from the other, jockey Alan Garcia. And we watched, amused, indulgently, as he toured the young woman around the circle, proudly pointing out his four Grade I wins from Saratoga 2008. “That one’s me,” he said, pointing to Grand Couturier and the Sword Dancer. “And that one, too,” circling to Visionaire and the King’s Bishop. Standing in front of the Spinaway and Mani Bhavan, we said, “You’re over here, too.” Grinning, he approached and pointed to the sign. (For the record, the fourth was Vineyard Haven in the Hopeful.)

That morning might have been as close as Garcia got to a Grade I this year at Saratoga. While no doubt possessed of a prodigious talent and a winning personality, he was questioned more than once this summer, and puzzling rides aboard Da’ Tara in Albert the Great and Reread the Footnotes at Saratoga on August 10th caused more than a little speculation about what he was thinking.

He was suspended seven days (pending appeal, of course) for his ride aboard Vineyard Haven in the King’s Bishop on Travers Day at Saratoga; from Mark Singelais at the Times Union:

Replays showed that Garcia continued to go the left-handed whip even as Vineyard
Haven drifted far outside and repeatedly bumped winner Capt. Candyman Can.

And now David Grening reports in the Daily Racing Form that Garcia faces another penalty for use of the whip:

The stewards fined jockey Alan Garcia $500 for misuse of the whip during the
running of Saturday’s second race. Garcia, aboard co-favorite Five Boroughs,
struck the horse on the side of the face around the far turn as the horse
repeatedly attempted to bear out. Five Boroughs finished fourth in the race.

(Aside: you get a week for whipping that results in your horse bearing out, but $500 for hitting a horse in the face? Hmm.)

Following that spectacular summer of 2008, with the four Grade I’s and the Saratoga riding title, Garcia finished five behind Ramon Dominguez in this year’s jockey race at the Spa. He and Dominguez are currently tied with five wins each at the current Belmont meet (according to the NYRA website), and in four days of racing, he’s won the Grade I Ruffian with Swift Temper and the Grade II Bowling Green with Grand Couturier.

He rode no shortage of impressive races at Saratoga, and his ability is unquestionable. I mean, anyone who can win a Triple Crown race on Da’ Tara deserves a lot of respect, no? But his judgment seems to be a little off, and one hopes that he’s got smart, thoughtful people around him to offer counsel. Maybe he needs the vacation that a suspension would afford?

On another note: a belated thank you to Trackmaster for the past performance information on Irish Blast in my last post.

And after a much-needed (and fortunately brief) hiatus last week, Brian Nadeau will be back tomorrow with a look at Saturday’s $350,000 guaranteed Belmont Pick 4.

And finally: Brooklyn Backstretch turns two today. 661 posts (!) later, thanks to everyone who’s taken the time to read, comment, offer suggestions, say hello, advertise, and in general support the musings of a mild-mannered high school English teacher and her racetrack junkie alter ego. I raise a glass (figuratively for the moment, literally later) to all of you–

28 thoughts on “What’s going on with Alan Garcia?

  1. The stewards actually took an action on whipping? I'm going to buy a lottery ticket.And congrats on your blogiversary! When you say mild mannered, you're not talking about cursing, right? 🙂

  2. Congrats. . .I have been wondering about Garcia too. When he came back to the winner's circle after he won the Ruffian on Swift Temper he wasn;t even smiling. I thought to myself, maybe this guy is getting a little jaded. He did turn on the smile for the camera in the trophy presentation and turned it right off after the picture was taken. Maybe he was having a bad day otherwise but it seemed to me like winning G1's is getting routine for him.And that's when the trouble begins.

  3. Your post is very interesting and made me go back to the jockey stats for the Spa, as I didn't notice a huge dropoff until you pointed out some specific instances. He actually outperformed Ramon in win % (19.8% v. 17.3%) with 58 less mounts. He was third in jockey earnings with ~$2.3M (not bad considering he didn't win a G1). Dominguez was much better ITM% (51.5% v. 42.1%). Maybe the lovely young blonde is what's going on?Congrats on your 2 yr anniversary.

  4. D: When I say "mild mannered," I'm not really talking about any element of my actual behavior. ;)Thanks, John…and I didn't notice that last weekend. Interesting.Geno: Thank you, and far be it from me to speculate! Nice research–thanks for the numbers!

  5. Hi Teresa,I don't know about Alan's whipping, or not smiling, but Donna and I met him one night on Broadway. He was late for a dinner appointment (with mysterious blonde?), but stoppe and talked about Anna House, Kiaran and that he would be coming to our benfit. He apologized for running off, kissed Donna and then drifted out to the right to cross the street.Stuart

  6. Congrats on the blogiversary? What's the proper gift to give someone…sixth anniversary is sugar or iron, so I'm not sure how that would work digitally.Garcia of late kind of reminds me of Fernando Jara. The guy could do no wrong for a while and then completely fell off the radar. I guess every rider goes through slumps of some sort, you just hope he pulls out of it because he seems like a very class act.

  7. A big, huge digital hug and high five on your two year anniversary!! Your dedication, historical perspective and writing style are indeed impressive. Thank you!Regarding the darling senor Garcia, it is difficult to be so successful, so young (and so cute). Hopefully, those older and wiser of the been there, done that crowd will be there for him. Or maybe a blonde with a whip…PS: Those kitties are now gigantic. What did you feed them during their time at the Spa? Are we going to have to take them to the drug barn?

  8. Teresa – The only way to truly answer the query at the core of this post is to come to Woodbine on Sunday and ask Alan Garcia in person!There's enough NY imports here at the moment that you should feel right at home! Congrats on the two-year anniversary! That's a lifetime in the digital age.

  9. I'm glad you brought this issue up about Alan Garcia because I've been wondering the same thing. He used to be a great money rider but the DQ in the King's Bishop for his inexplicable handling of Vineyard Haven cost me a nice ex and tri payoff. Now he's kind of hit and miss; and maybe hitting at the wrong time. Hopefully his quick rise to the top has not created personal problems. Too much, too fast has sidetracked many great riders before. Some can rebound and others never did. I hope it's just an aberration.

  10. Thanks, everyone for the good wishes.TKS: Don't know Garcia's friends; can't help you, not sure if I would even if I could!Stuart: He was incredibly generous at the auction, and is by all accounts a very genial young man. Lucky: good upstate air will do it! Oh, TDH, I wish I could! Will settle for Belmont on Saturday.

  11. I forget who had mentioned it, but apparently Garcia went 0 for 32 on Saturday/Sunday mounts the last two weekends of the Spa meet.

  12. I think maybe you're being a little too hard on the guy. Usually, it works the other way around. Jockey sleeprides maidens and claimers, and then comes alive in stakes races. You admit that Garcia finished only 5 wins behind Dominguez, so it's not as if he went into freefall. And how many Grade 1s are there at Saratoga for any jockey to win? Do you remember Ruben Hernandez? He rode Coastal to victory in the Belmont Stakes, defeating Spectacular Bid. He became the quintessential money rider in New York. After several years, though, he couldn't get any mounts, because he hadn't ridden horses in maiden and allowance races, and lost out on a lot of stakes mounts when these horses eventually did run in stakes. He eventually drifted away and, I think, finished his career at Calder. As long as Garcia maintains winning form at any level, he'll be fine.

  13. Steve Munday: Garcia's actions didn't cost you anything…had Capt. Candyman not been fouled, he would have finished first almost certainly.As for the smaller fine for hitting the horse in the face…I didn't see the race but I have seen it before where they will give the jockey a bit of a break if the horse is really bolting sideways in a way that is dangerous.

  14. Another fact to consider on the whipping front – all riders on the NYRA circuit recently switched over to the lighter, more flexible whips endorsed by the Guild. I've seen both up close and the lighter whips are definitely going to make less of an impression, and therefore with some horses necessitate more vehemence on the part of the rider. A couple of the guys have told me that some horses don't even respond to them at all. I wouldn't go so far as to defend Garcia's King's Bishop ride, but just to mention that with more difficult mounts, he may be struggling to get a response with the new whips. Worth taking into consideration, at least.

  15. Happy birthday!Good post here for sure…And I'd hate to see the stats about whip use in relation to Garcia when he's 6 lengths in front and inside the sixteenth pole. Put it away, please.

  16. Thanks for bringing up great points, everyone, about the new whips, jockey stats, race analysis. One clarification to anonymous: what really got my attention was not Garcia's race record; it's that within less a month, he's earned two suspensions for the way he's using the whip.

  17. This is the problem with bloggers. How would u like it if someone started writing about ur life? There is no credibility to this. Just someones observations. My observation is that u have too much time on ur hands. Go get a life, or better yet a constructive hobby and mind ur on business.

  18. Anon: If you read the post carefully, you'll see that the focus is on Garcia's performance at the racetrack, and you are indeed right: these are observations, based on what I've seen at the races.Perhaps next time you'll feel that your opinions are credible enough to warrant your putting your name to them.

  19. From Another Anonymous Poster:Congratulations on the blogiversary, and many more (paying) gigs!That being said, you should remember that it was your *own* post that identified a "mysterious blonde" with the illustrious jockey. You were the one who outed this couple; you were the one who brought it to the public eye. As a result, it makes no sense for you to be censorious or superior about the curiosity of your readership. Rather, you should be apologetic to the jockey and the blonde, if you are concerned about or protective of their privacy. As for me, I don't care about Garcia's private life. Or the blonde's. But i do find your attitude inconsistent. As a journalist, it seems (if only to me), that you should, in the future, pick one road or the other. That being said, thank you for an excellent blog. –AAP

  20. Thanks for the good wishes, AAP, for taking the time to write such a thoughtful comment. You make good points, though I will say that I never used the word "mysterious"! I took a calculated risk with including her in the story–I thought about writing that Garcia was with a "friend," but the scene then made him look a little arrogant; noting that the friend was a woman came closer to capturing the really charming element of the situation. It was a risk, and one that led to speculation that I found uncomfortable. Perhaps I should have made a different choice. Thank you very much for reading and for weighing in.

  21. I believe A. Garcia is finished as a Jockey. He’s not receiving any mounts. His winning percentage is poor. On the mounts he does receive 90% of the time he finished out of the money. Too bad he was a good rider. How does he survive?

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