04/15/2015 1:20PM

When it's time for a Baffert star to work, Garcia punches in

Barbara D. Livingston
Martin Garcia has ridden and works both Dortmund (above) and American Pharoah.

Jockey Martin Garcia is in the unique position of having ridden both American Pharoah and Dortmund, so he, more than anyone, can compare and contrast the top two choices for this year’s Kentucky Derby on May 2.

Garcia has ridden Dortmund to victory in all six of his starts. He rode American Pharoah in his first race, a loss, then was committed to another runner for the Del Mar Futurity before trainer Bob Baffert decided to run American Pharoah, too. Victor Espinoza was the beneficiary.

But Garcia is on both horses for their workouts, and his skill in the mornings has been instrumental in the development of both American Pharoah and Dortmund. With American Pharoah, Garcia was in sync with Baffert in terms of how much to ask of the colt in his first works back from an injury. With Dortmund, Garcia helped the large, headstrong colt become far more relaxed in the mornings. Dortmund practically ran off with Garcia in his first race. Now, he lopes along on the lead, awaiting challengers.

:: DERBY WATCH: Top 20 list | Kentucky Derby: Who's hot, who's not

“He can play around a bit, but when someone comes to him or I ask him to go, he’s push-button. He takes off,” Garcia said after winning the Santa Anita Derby on Dortmund.

Garcia said Dortmund is “not as impressive” as American Pharoah in the mornings.

“He just gallops along, isn’t aggressive about it,” he said.

Garcia said of American Pharoah: “Whenever you want to go, however far you want to go, he drags you there.”

“They’re different that way,” he said. “But they’re both very good horses.”

Garcia is an integral part of Baffert’s operation. Baffert trusts Garcia on more good horses in more key workouts than anyone else. And it pays off in the afternoons, for Garcia has won the Preakness on Lookin At Lucky and Breeders’ Cup races on Bayern, New Year’s Day, and Secret Circle.

“That’s the way he got the job with me,” Baffert said. “Usually, a lot of top jockeys aren’t good work riders. He’s got a good set of hands, really soft. Horses like him. They run for him. If a horse is a handful, he gets along with them. He’s got a lot of horseman in him. He really likes horses. He loves animals.

“He understands horses. He’s conscientious. If he doesn’t like the way a horse is warming up, he’ll tell me. I’d rather be safe than sorry.”

Garcia is outfitted with a wireless radio for workouts. Baffert will give Garcia a few instructions before a workout – where to start, how far to go, whether to be inside or outside a workmate – but once the drill starts, Baffert largely stays out of the way. He might say “perfect” or “just like that” after an ideal opening furlong; “pick it up” if the opening fraction is a bit too slow; and might call an audible and have Garcia gallop a horse out farther than first discussed if he feels it necessary. But the communication is infrequent because Garcia seems to be in sync with Baffert’s wishes.

“He knows my mind-set,” Baffert said. “If we’re getting a horse ready off a layoff, he knows if we’re in a holding pattern. He’s got it under control. I might have to remind him to be careful with Pharoah because he’s so deceptively fast, or with Dortmund because he’s got such a deceptively long stride. But he knows. And when he rides my horses in the afternoon, I don’t need to say too much to him because he knows the horses really well.”

Baffert relies on Garcia’s input as to how a horse worked. He’ll get an honest assessment, especially in regard to whether Garcia thinks a horse will be able to stretch out. Garcia often gets on the radio to Baffert as soon as a horse has been pulled to a stop after a work.

:: ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays

“Patron” – Spanish for “boss” – Garcia will begin, “he’s ready.” After American Pharoah’s final work before the Arkansas Derby, Garcia animatedly reported, “I was just galloping!”

“I can tell when he’s excited,” Baffert said. “Short? Long? He knows. When he says, ‘This horse can really run,’ he knows. He’s been on so many good ones the last few years.

“He helps me with my training. I’m constantly asking him what he thinks. He’s a very important part of the barn.”

The association with Baffert affords great opportunity with one of the biggest stables in the country but can restrict Garcia from getting more work because trainers often figure he’s tied up with Baffert. At the current Santa Anita meeting, Garcia ranks fifth in wins with 30 and third in purse earnings behind Rafael Bejarano and Tyler Baze, but he’s had about half as many mounts (154) as Bejarano (305) and Baze (336).

It’s definitely quality over quantity, but the payoff, for both Garcia and Baffert, has been well worth it.

Tim More than 1 year ago
Garcia should get a slice of the winner's purse when AP wins the Derby...
Eli Dawkins More than 1 year ago
I don't think its the trainer who pulls Garcia I really believe the Owners are the ones responsible
Amy Hurley More than 1 year ago
I'm a long-time fan of both Martin and Bob, and can't wait for the Derby. Good luck to both! This article was interesting in the way it shows how the trainer and exercise rider work together in the mornings, something that is not always apparent
Walter More than 1 year ago
This article gives the "warm and fuzzies", but it seems Baffert has a quick hook to take Garcia off horses. Not sure why since Garcia seems to always win big races for him.
Hail No More than 1 year ago
I always wondered that, too. Garcia, rides exactly to BBs instructions, consistently, and you know how he (BB) pulls a jock for even a minor blunder.
Meydan Rocks More than 1 year ago
Garcia was on the outside looking in a few years ago. Bob banished him from Team Baffert. It just so happens that Garcia's agent is the brother of Mike Pegram. You can start working the math backwards from there.
Chris Jones More than 1 year ago
From what I read about it, Garcia told Baffert he no longer wanted to work horses in the morning for him. Baffert told Garcia that if he was unwilling to work the horses in the morning then he would find other jocks who would and let them ride in the afternoon.
Len Sam More than 1 year ago
Have always been a fan of Garcia. Makes sense that Baffert says he is very in-tune with the horses. His biggest asset, I've always thought, is that he is able to aggressively place horses without seeming to ask them to do too much, too soon. He's as good at getting a horse to be comfortable on the front-end as any jock riding today. Although it won't be Martin's fault when Mubtaahij rolls right on by him on May 2nd....
Hugh Cooke More than 1 year ago
From Martin Garcia was an apprentice I was wishing that one day he would get into a Big Stable. It's now is time. Although, I thought he was lucky to keep the Breeders Cup race on Bayern after watching the race. He will be winning is 1st. Kentucky Derby and I will be eating a lot of Kentucky Chicken. Ride on Martin Garcia.
Jock More than 1 year ago
I'm not sure which one will win, but until Dortmund loses he is the one to beat.
Nathan More than 1 year ago
Lawrence Redding More than 1 year ago
Absolute nonsense!!! Martin Garcia is the most underrated Jockey in the country. Baffert uses him because he is a very talented individual . And he produces in the big races over and over. Any jockey can win with the best horse, That's true ; however they often screw up and cause a lot of losses with the best horse. Thats why Baffert used Stevens , in his prime , with the big horses and thats why he uses Garcia. Not to mention Mike Smith and Victor Espinoza who by the way doesn't get the credit he deserves from Joe Better. They all have pretty big bank accounts, there lies the source of envy.
Edward Nelson More than 1 year ago
Baffert put new riders on his horses for any reason he can find. You make one mistake and cost a spot in a race for him and he takes you off the horse. The fact that Garcia is his top rider says a ton. Barely any jock would be able to stay with Baffert this long
tommy More than 1 year ago
Martin Garcia is not a good jockey!!! He never even came 3rd in a kentucky derby!!! He never won jockey of the year and will never be in the hall of fame!!! Why do you think Martin Garcia lost American pharaoh only race??? Simply put, he's not good enough!! I love the jockey change from Martin Garcia to victor Espinoza on American pharaoh to explain his success !! I think Garcia is jealous of Espinoza !!! Martin Garcia only wishes he can ride American pharaoh !!! In his dreams!!!!!
brian More than 1 year ago
Sorry, You have zero idea what your talking about...
Ian More than 1 year ago
Meydan Rocks More than 1 year ago
Tommy - I gotta give it to you. You got Baffert's attention when he asked you for "advice" on the other article. Did you humor him with your expertise pal?
Tim Sr. More than 1 year ago
Another example of your ability to show us all you have no idea what you're talking about. And your insanity V2 and Lactic bullshi* is priceless. You need to ask your psych to change your medication tommy
Edward Nelson More than 1 year ago
Tommy, thanks for your comment. I was in a bad mood until I read this and now I can't stop laughing. Please make more unknowledgable comments more often
stockmann9914 . More than 1 year ago
Tommy, this is what happens when your mother breast feeds you till twelve years old.
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
While she's on drugs.
Lawrence Vaccarelli More than 1 year ago
tommy.......he had his choice of mounts....that speaks loud on who he thinks is better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Baffert's let go of Garcia before and brought him back. Same with Espinoza. Same with many of SoCal's best. Pretty obvious you're new here.
Debbie Gardner More than 1 year ago
Martin, is due for his Ky. Derby winner. This is his year. Good luck Martin and Dortmund in the Derby! Show them your riding skills..