08/11/2015 12:25PM

Tyro win one for the books

Bill Denver/Equi-photo
Expected Ruler wins the Tyro at Monmouth in his debut.

Expected Ruler’s win in the $60,000 Tyro at Monmouth Park on Sunday was the first stakes victory for 20-year-old trainer Liam Benson. It was also the first stakes win as an owner for Benson’s father, Liam F. Benson, and for jockey Wilmer Garcia and his agent, Joe Orseno Jr.

If that isn’t enough, the Tyro was Expected Ruler’s first career start.

Benson had hoped to run Expected Ruler in a maiden race, but when it failed to fill he had to come up with a new plan. He opted for the Tyro, a five-furlong turf race for 2-year-olds.

“They brought the maiden race back last Saturday, but it was at a mile and I thought that was too far first time out, so I decided on the stakes,” Benson said. “He’s by Leroidesanimaux, so I thought he’d be fine on turf.”

The public didn’t have as much faith and Expected Ruler paid $96.60 as the longest shot in the 10-horse field. He won by 2 1/2 lengths.

The victory concluded a difficult week on an up note for the Bensons. Several days earlier, Happy My Way, the first graded stakes winner bred by Benson’s father, had to be euthanized after being injured in a race. The Bensons had sold Happy My Way at auction as a 2-year-old and followed his career closely.

“It’s been a week of highs and lows,” the trainer said.

Benson is a student in equine business and accounting at the University of Louisville. He is scheduled to graduate in May 2017.

Two years ago, after a summer internship at Del Mar fell through, Benson took six of his family’s horses to Colonial Downs, where he was granted a trainer’s license.

“They were a little reluctant to give it to me because of my age,” he said. “They gave me a very tough test. It was like 43 pages.”

This is Benson’s second season at Monmouth. He went 2 for 24 last summer and now is 2 for 11 this year. He has won with two of his last three starters.

“Three of my last four have finished third or better, so I’m pretty happy with how things are going right now,” Benson said.

When Benson returns to school, he hopes to bring several horses and stable at Churchill Downs.

“I’ve been in touch with Churchill,” he said. “I will be the groom, hotwalker, and trainer, and then go to my classes.”

Garcia gave Expected Ruler a cool ride in the Tyro, diving to the rail in upper stretch after racing in traffic. This is Garcia’s first meet at Monmouth, and he is tied for 10th in the standings with 16 wins.

Garcia was introduced to Orseno by the agent’s father, trainer Joe Orseno. The younger Orseno, who spent the last four years as an agent at Parx, hooked up with Garcia in late May and the pair have steadily built up their business with New Jersey horsemen. They plan to go to Aqueduct this winter and return to Monmouth next summer.

Garcia, a 23-year-old native of Puerto Rico, has spent the bulk of his career in New York. He had a solid apprentice season in 2012, when his mounts earned more than $3 million. He missed most of the following year after being involved in a car crash, and never really regained his footing in New York.

“I needed to go somewhere I would do good,” Garcia said, “where I could show people how I ride.”

Benson has been impressed with Garcia’s work ethic and ability.

“Wilmer’s hungry, and I’m hungry,” he said. “It’s a good combination. He’s out every morning and works hard. He’ll do anything you want. I think Wilmer’s going to do very well.”