- Published: Thursday, 13 November 2014 20:50
Carlos Garcia has tried to slow down before. Two years ago, he said he was retiring as a trainer. He said he was hanging it up after the 2012 De Francis Dash. His horse Action Andy was running in that race, and Garcia hoped his training career would end on a positive note.
Action Andy did his part. He won. Garcia tried to do his. But he made a mistake. He kept a small string of horses. Before he knew it, he was back training.
Now, he believes, he’s done it the right way. No more racehorses on his farm. He’s going to try being an agent for jockeys. He tried that two years ago, too. But the horses called him back.
It might have been expected. Garcia has sent 8,388 of them to post and won 1,354 times during the last 44 years. It was hard to let go.
“I’m going to try to stick with it [retirement],” Garcia said from his home near Tampa, Fla. “I’ve [got] no horses of my own now. Action Andy is being retired, too. My son and his girlfriend are going to give him a second career. Right now, he’s enjoying some time off.”
Garcia, who came to the United States from his native Argentina in 1964, hopes he will enjoy some time off, too. But his first love has always been the horses. He grew up with them, riding by the time he was five. He got his early lessons from his father, who was a successful trainer in Buenos Aires. Garcia likes to be around the animals, watching them, helping them. And he has compiled an impressive record as one of the little guys.
“I didn’t have rich owners,” he said. “I once went to the sale at Keeneland and bought five horses for $12,000. I think we only paid $15,000 for Action Andy. When I started, I was living on bouillon soup. I had three horses I had bought for $100 when I came to Maryland in 1970. One of them, Chimango was claimed for $3,500. It was like I became a millionaire. I started with nothing. I’ve been very lucky.”
Maryland trainer Larry Murray said Garcia has always had a strong work ethic.
“He was very diligent,” Murray said. “He always had good help and took good care of his horses. All that effort and care came through. I’ve been next to him in the barns my whole training career at Laurel. He was a character, always had a joke, a great slant on life and had his hands on some very nice horses. We’ll miss him here.”
Garcia’s horses won 14 graded stakes. The first of significance was the Grade 3 Barbara Fritchie Handicap with Donetta in 1976. The last was the 1992 Grade 2 Ladies Handicap with Brilliant Brass. In between there was the 1990 Grade 2 Cotillion Handicap with Valay Maid – who finished third in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff – and there was another Barbara Fritchie in 1978 with Bold Brat, and three Grade 3 stakes wins with Squan Song, who Garcia views as possibly one of his best horses. He trained Fobby Forbes to a seventh-place finish in the 1986 Kentucky Derby.
All together, his horses won 146 stakes, $25.9 million and made him a top 10 Maryland trainer for five years in the 1990s.
But, now, as an agent, he has taken on two jockeys, Rafael Mejia, a 21-year-old at the start of his career, and Jacinto Herrera, 42, who has won more than 3,600 races in Argentina.
“I’m at an age when it’s time to move on,” said Garcia, who asked not to reveal his age. “Right now, I’m retired, well, semi-retired. I spent yesterday at the track, walking around, introducing my jockeys. I like it here [in Florida]. I won’t have to break the ice on the water buckets in the morning.”
Still, Garcia is conflicted. He’d like to go back to training horses as a private trainer. He’d be happy to come back to Maryland, where he knows everyone, to do it.
“If the opportunity knocked . . . ,” he said. “All they have to do is call.”