01/25/2011 10:03AM

Garcia settles paperwork, returns at Santa Anita

Benoit & Associates
Martin Garcia has settled his visa problems and will ride Thursday for the first time since November.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Jockey Martin Garcia has spent the last few days jump-starting his career in Southern California. After missing more than two months of racing because of visa problems, Garcia, 26, resumes riding at Santa Anita on Thursday.

Garcia rides El Martillo in the seventh race on Thursday. He has one mount on Friday, Dixie Commander in the sixth race.

Garcia completed the necessary immigration paperwork on Friday in Tijuana, Mexico, and traveled to Los Angeles area later that day. He was at Hollywood Park on Saturday to exercise horses and at Santa Anita on Sunday morning.

Garcia has not ridden since Nov. 7 at Hollywood Park. He left for Mexico a few days later, hoping to reapply for a license and make a quick return to California.

“I didn’t think it would take that long,” Garcia said. “My visa expired and I had to go back to Mexico. It’s what you have to do.”

Garcia said the visa has a three-year term and can be renewed annually.

During his time in Mexico, Garcia said he rode horses on occasion on a ranch in the Gulf of Mexico city of Veracruz, where his family resides.

“I spent some time with my family,” Garcia said. “I got on some ranch horses.”

Garcia had a career-best year in 2010, winning his first Triple Crown race in the Preakness Stakes on Lookin At Lucky. Even though he did not ride the final seven weeks of the year, Garcia’s mounts earned $10,151,584, easily surpassing his previous one-year best of $6,079,804 in 2006.

In 2010, Garcia was closely allied with Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, winning such races for him as the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap with Gabby’s Golden Gal, the Haskell Invitational on Lookin At Lucky, and the Santa Anita Handicap on Misremembered.

Garcia rides El Martillo for Baffert on Thursday, but has lost mounts in that stable to jockeys Rafael Bejarano and Mike Smith in recent months. He does not have any mounts in the three Sunshine Millions Stakes on Saturday.