11/14/2006 12:00AM

Garcia, trainer, dies at 53

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Trainer Joe Garcia, best known as a longtime assistant to Hall of Famer Laz Barrera and the original trainer of 2001 Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Squirtle Squirt, died Sunday at his home near Santa Anita after a lengthy battle with colon cancer. He was 53.

Garcia was with Barrera for 17 years, including 12 when Barrera had one of the leading stables in the country. After going out on his own, Garcia had a small stable, highlighted by Squirtle Squirt. Garcia purchased him on behalf of owner David Lanzman for $25,000 at a 2-year-olds in training sale, and the colt subsequently became one of the best of his generation, winning the Hollywood Juvenile Championship that year. The next year, after being transferred to trainer Bobby Frankel, Squirtle Squirt won the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Garcia is survived by his wife, Patricia - the daughter of the late trainer Tommy Doyle - four children and three grandchildren.

Funeral services will be Friday at 11 a.m. at Live Oak Memorial Park, 200 E. Duarte Rd., Monrovia, Calif.

Garcia's family requested that donations be made to USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, in care of Dr. Syma Iqbal in the colorectal cancer research department, 1441 Eastlake Ave., Los Angeles, Calif., 90033.Trainer Joe Garcia, best known as a longtime assistant to Hall of Famer Laz Barrera and the original trainer of 2001 Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Squirtle Squirt, died Sunday at his home near Santa Anita after a lengthy battle with colon cancer. He was 53.

Garcia was with Barrera for 17 years, including 12 when Barrera had one of the leading stables in the country. After going out on his own, Garcia had a small stable, highlighted by Squirtle Squirt. Garcia purchased him on behalf of owner David Lanzman for $25,000 at a 2-year-olds in training sale, and the colt subsequently became one of the best of his generation, winning the Hollywood Juvenile Championship that year. The next year, after being transferred to trainer Bobby Frankel, Squirtle Squirt won the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Garcia is survived by his wife, Patricia - the daughter of the late trainer Tommy Doyle - four children and three grandchildren.

Funeral services will be Friday at 11 a.m. at Live Oak Memorial Park, 200 E. Duarte Rd., Monrovia, Calif.

Garcia's family requested that donations be made to USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, in care of Dr. Syma Iqbal in the colorectal cancer research department, 1441 Eastlake Ave., Los Angeles, Calif., 90033.