01/09/2012 1:41PM

Tampa Bay: Garcia doing fine again on modest scale

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John Duca/Tom Cooley
Action Andy, with Jesse Garcia up, wins the Pelican.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – Carlos A. Garcia came to the United States in 1964 from his native Argentina with $100 in his pocket and a dream: to train Thoroughbred horses and win races.

Now, 48 years and 136 stakes winners later, the dream has come true and then some.

Garcia, whose first job on the backstretch was with the legendary Frank Martin, came back to training this season after a two-year hiatus, and on Saturday he showed he still knows how to get the job done when he sent out Action Andy to post an authoritative 3 1/2-length victory in the $60,000 Pelican Stakes here at Tampa Bay Downs.

The 5-year-old Action Andy, who as a 2-year-old almost succumbed to wobbler’s syndrome – a malformation or compression of the spinal cord – roared by the leaders in the stretch of the Pelican to post his fifth win while covering the six furlongs in a very quick 1:09.58. He was awarded a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 92. For Garcia, getting Action Andy back in solid form was much more enjoyable than his duties for the past two years as a jockey agent.

“I learned pretty quick that it’s a lot more stressful and much less rewarding dealing with people than it is dealing with horses,” Garcia said of his time as an agent. “I was lucky to be able to get some decent stock and get back to doing what has always been my first love.”

From the early 1970’s to the early 1990’s Garcia was a perennial leader in the trainer standings in Maryland and other tracks in the mid-Atlantic region, and earned a reputation as being particularly adept developing female runners. He trained Squan Song, who was voted the top Maryland-bred filly or mare four straight years and honored as top overall Maryland-bred in 1985. Winner of 18 of 36 races for earnings of almost $900,000, Squan Song raced back in the days when $100,000 was a big stakes purse. Squan Song raced up and down the East Coast, including New York, beat male rivals, and was very versatile, winning both at sprint and route distances.

“She was a small filly and hard to train, but she was so special,” Garcia once said of Squan Song.

Garcia has 10 head now and says he may add a few more,

“I’m not interested in having a barn full of horses anymore,” he said, “With a managable number I can give them each the attention they deserve.”

Giving horses the attention they deserve has worked for nearly 50 years.

Ness off to a hot start

The “Ness Express” just keeps rolling along. Jamie Ness, who won 330 races in 2011, has started this meeting with guns blazing. He scored a training triple on Friday, the third time he has saddled three winners on a single program since the meeting began on Dec. 3, then came back and added two more on Saturday and another on Sunday’s program to run his win total to the meeting to 15.

Perhaps the most impressive of the Ness winners was Western Prospector, who looked very strong whipping a group of optional claiming foes while covering six furlongs in 1:09.94. Western Prospector wasn’t quite ready for Saturday’s Pelican Stakes but is eligible for the $75,000 Super Stakes on Feb. 11.

◗ Jockey Angel Serpa has been on a hot streak of late. When he came up the rail to score in the eighth race on Sunday aboard Katrina’s Prince, the win was his sixth tally from his last 12 mounts and ran his win total for the meeting to 11. William Downing trains Katrina’s Prince.