12/26/2008 12:00AM

After a great 2008, Garcia heading south


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Following a seven-hour flight from his native Peru that landed at John F. Kennedy Airport at 7:45 a.m. Friday, jockey Alan Garcia soon found himself in his second home: the winner's circle.

Garcia won Friday's first race at Aqueduct, his 218th victory on the New York Racing Association circuit in 2008 and 230th overall on the year. He will finish 2008 as the leading rider in New York in wins and purse money won ($13,071,139 through Friday) and nationally ranks 13th in wins and eighth in purse money won ($14,416,065). He won eight Grade 1 stakes, including the Belmont aboard Da' Tara, the Metropolitan Handicap on Divine Park, and the Hopeful on Vineyard Haven.

"Great year - one of the best years I've had so far,'' Garcia said after he guided Gimmearoutine to victory in the opener. "Hopefully each year is going to get better.''

It has so far for the 22-year-old Garcia, who in 2007 won 235 races and $11.8 million in purse money but with 200 more mounts. After he rides here for three more cards, Garcia and his agent, Tony Micallef, will be heading south to ride the winter meet at Gulfstream Park beginning Jan. 3.

It will be the first time Garcia - who was the second-leading rider during last year's inner -track meet - will winter in Florida. But with so many of his clients and horses stabling there, it became a no-brainer decision.

Garcia has ridden several nice young horses he hopes turn into Kentucky Derby prospects, including Charitable Man, Break Water Edison, and Quality Road, and those horses will all be stabled in Florida. Of course, riding at Gulfstream also affords the opportunity find another top 3-year-old.

"We'll see what I can get and hopefully pick the right one,'' Garcia said.

Garcia understands that the day-to-day purse money in south Florida won't enable him to make what he probably could in New York this winter, but Micallef told him, "All the money you lose in the winter you make up in the summer riding nice horses,'' Garcia said.

Despite suffering a little jet-lag, Garcia was in excellent spirits Friday, in part because he got to see his mother, with whom he is very close. Garcia said he is hopeful that this year his mother will be able to work out previous visa problems that will enable her to visit the U.S. and see him ride in person.

Ritvo starts suspension for clenbuterol

Trainer Tim Ritvo began serving a 15-day suspension on Friday after one of his horses tested positive for the banned bronchodilator clenbuterol. Ritvo's suspension was reduced from 30 days after he waived his right of appeal and the board's investigation determined that the positive was an honest mistake. Ritvo also was fined $1,000.

Clenbuterol was found in the post-race samples of Russian Sage after that horse finished second in the first race at Belmont on Oct. 17.

Ritvo will be eligible to compete again on Jan. 10. During his suspension, Ritvo's horses will run under trainer John Parisella's name, according to the track stewards.

Bettors nail pick six

Handicappers showed no rust from an 11-day holiday break as there were 132 winning tickets sold on the pick six, each returning $3,149. There were 1,959 consolation tickets (5 of 6) worth $45.20 each.

There was a $150,027 carryover entering Friday and an additional $479,288 was wagered into the pool.

The winning sequence of 10-8-6-6-4-9 included just one double-digit winner, that being Fly the North Win ($12.80) in the last race. Prior to that, the winners were Living Out a Dream ($5.50), Kamboo Man ($5.60), Moment Sensor ($6.30), Madam Commander ($9.90), and Noble Sound ($6.30).

Friday's races were surprisingly run on a sealed muddy surface. Track superintendent Glen Kozak explained that the combination of cold temperatures and moisture earlier in the week with unseasonably warm temperatures Thursday and Friday made for the wetter-than-expected conditions.

Davis taken to hospital

Ten-pound apprentice jockey Jackie Davis was taken to North Shore University Hospital for X-rays on her left hip after she fell from her mount, Red Demon, in Friday's ninth race. Red Demon appeared to bobble and bear out at the six-furlong pole, unseating Davis.

Davis, the 21-year-old daughter of retired rider Robbie Davis, earlier in the day won her fourth career race when she guided Madam Commander ($9.90) to victory in the seventh.

Breeder of Thunder Puddles dies

Robert Boggiano, who bred the influential New York-based stallion Thunder Puddles, died earlier this week at his Belle Harbor, N.Y. home. He was 88. Boggiano teamed with Herb Schwartz to bred their mare Big Puddles to Speak John. The mating produced Thunder Puddles, who won the Grade 2 Rutgers Handicap as well as several New York-bred stakes.

Thunder Puddles sired many New York-bred stakes winners, including Thunder Rumble, winner of the 1992 Travers.

* Jockey Rudy Rodriguez, who suffered a broken collarbone in a spill at Belmont Park on Sept. 17, will be ready to resume riding on Jan. 2, his agent, Joe Ceraulo confirmed Friday. First, however, Rodriguez must serve a seven-day careless riding suspension that occurred in the Ashley T. Cole Handicap at Belmont on Sept. 14.